Surviving the 'Black Bernie Madoff'

How a Cleveland entrepreneur lost everything and bounced back after tangling with an infamous con man.

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Then he met Wright through Earl Patton, the director of basketball administration for the Cleveland Cavaliers and a regular at Phil the Fire. Following initial meetings, Davis says Wright promised he would put up $1 million for a second location downtown. With that, the pair forged ahead to have it done by the start of the 2003 Cavs season--LeBron James' rookie year.

Wright, however, failed to pay contractors for work that was completed to open the second spot. What's worse, the hedge fund manager turned on Davis and tried to accuse him of fraudulently diverting money from the restaurant, according to Davis.

"He took my business right from under me," says Davis. By April 2004, Phil the Fire restaurants were gone.

It would be a year later when Wright was finally convicted of investment fraud. He committed suicide just before being sentenced.

The damage was already done for Davis, who couldn't even get a job as a restaurant manager and grew concerned about taking care of his daughter, now 9 years old. "This still ranks as the lowest point in my life," said Davis, adding he had contacted federal regulators about Wright's scheme. "I kept saying, I have to reinvent myself."

The idea for the mini-microwave came to him while shaving. He wanted a hot towel and thought it would be great to have a microwave oven in the bathroom to heat it up. That notion blossomed into other ideas for a small microwave, including having one for long road trips, and Davis knew he had his next company.

In 2007, he launched iCubed International with the help of a few investors. The first year started off rocky as two of his initial buyers, Sharper Image and Linens-n-Things, went bankrupt and closed in 2008.

To keep it alive, he moved the entire operation online through his own site and Amazon, sold out of his inventory between last November to February of this year. He has a major push underway to sell the mini-microwaves in the European Union markets. By Christmas 2010, he plans to expand the product line to the iToastcube and iFridgecube.

Most important, he's never forgotten his namesake--Phil the Fire. And he's excited about reviving it this summer.

"There's nothing more precious than your name," he says. "There will be nothing more gratifying than getting my name back and serving people great food again."

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