Bruce W. Vorhauer, inventor of the Today contraceptive sponge, stepped down Monday as chairman of VLI Inc., the company he founded a decade ago.
Vorhauer, who has been easing himself out of the daily operations of the Irvine-based company, said he will continue to work as a consultant on long-range planning with VLI's research and development staff.
As the company's largest single shareholder with 6% of the stock, the 44-year-old research scientist also will remain a director.
Robert A. Elliott, president and chief executive, said he will serve as acting chairman. He said a permanent replacement for Vorhauer may not be named for more than a year.
Vorhauer said his resignation "made sense now, because of other business interests I have (and) to formalize what has already happened in practice. . . . The day-to-day operation is not my forte. I tend toward inventing, building things," he said in a telephone interview from VLI's research laboratories in Missoula, Mont.
"I'll still have an office and a secretary there, so it's not like I'm going to disappear," he added.
Among his other business interests, he said, is his work on a line of cosmetics and methods for marketing them.
Vorhauer started Vorhauer Laboratories Inc. in January, 1976, in the basement of his attorney's Newport Beach office. Over the years, he said, he raised about $45 million in equity capital.
A month before he took his company public in August, 1983, he hired Elliott as president and then moved his personal residence to Zypher Cove, Nev., on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Vorhauer continued as the company's liaison with the financial community until Elliott took on the chief executive's duties in April, 1985.
"VLI is going to evolve into a pharmaceutical company," Vorhauer said. "A lot of exciting things are going on and I look forward to seeing it grow."
VLI has lost $12.2 million in the last 3 1/2 years--primarily because of advertising and research and development costs.
Elliott said R&D costs run about 8% of sales, a hefty figure for a small company.
The Today sponge, the nation's leading over-the-counter contraceptive for women, brought in $36.9 million in revenues in the last 3 1/2 years. Altogether, about 60 million sponges have been sold in the United States and four foreign countries.
VLI also has begun testing the sponge as a vehicle for delivering medicines. The company is in the third and final stage of testing a medicinal sponge to fight bacterial vaginosis and is in the first stage of testing a sponge to fight yeast infections. Both infections are among the most common vaginal infections.