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HIGH-LEVEL EXPANSION HAS NU SKIN SHEDDING LOW-KEY IMAGE

Nu Skin International has tried to keep a low profile.

The company wants its line of skin, hair and nutritional products to do all the talking.But recent publicized scrutiny of Nu Skin's multilevel marketing approach to product sales makes maintaining a low-key image difficult. Inquiries from consumer protection officials in several states compelled Nu Skin to more fully explain its business operation.

"We truly have no quarrel with an attorney general . . . that wants to probe into the company to make sure we're being responsible," said Steven J. Lund, Nu Skin vice president and corporate counsel. Lund said the company is based on high morals and values.

And it's not just state attorney general investigations that have drawn attention. The cosmetics and the opportunity to make money selling them are attractive.

In the nation's capital, the Washington Business Journal wrote that Nu Skin is "sweeping Washington's yuppie population looking to make that first million."

A Chicago weekly newspaper wrote a lengthy article about the lives of several independent distributors in Illinois.

Seems people outside of Provo have been exposed to Nu Skin more than those who live near its corporate headquarters.

Nu Skin's inconspicuousness trickles down from its founder, Blake M. Roney, a Brigham Young University graduate. Roney shuns the spotlight that seems to shine on other local high-powered corporate executives. Even at the grand opening of the company's gigantic warehouse in East Bay last month, Roney only briefly addressed the crowd.

Because of Nu Skin's tendency to keep quiet, many of its good deeds go unnoticed. The company recently donated $100,000 to Salt Lake City's bid to host the 1998 Winter Olympics. It also contributed $15,000 to the Utah County Sheriff's Department to place cameras in patrol cars.

Lund, also a BYU graduate, describes Nu Skin as "very conservative." The corporation has managed its huge assets well, he said, and is in top financial condition. It is debt free, Lund said. Nu Skin has seven stockholders, the majority of whom are Roney family members.

Company officials are hesitant to talk about Nu Skin's net worth. Lund estimated the 7-year-old company had about $500 million worth of sales last year. Nu Skin's 60 different products are sold by a nationwide sales force made up of more than 100,000 independent distributors.

Nu Skin is a relatively young company, both in terms of its existence and its Provo employees.

"We're actually a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants company," Lund said.

The new $8 million warehouse and distribution center shows Nu Skin is soaring. So does a 10-story office building under construction in downtown Provo.

"We've been in the act of creation here," Lund said.

Nu Skin researchers develop some of the formulas for the company's cosmetics. Other products are purchased from European manufacturers on contract.