David Owens, founder of Terminals Unlimited Inc., regained control of his company yesterday.

Three months after Falls Church resident Owens sold his fast-growing operation to a little-known Oklahoma holding company, he was named chairman of the company that bought him out, in an unusual shuffle that he described as "almost a reverse acquisition."

In effect, Terminals Unlimited, which Owens had continued to run after the sale, gobbled up its new parent. The holding company, formerly called Duke of Energy Corp. and known as TU International Inc. since it bought Terminals Unlimited in December, named Owens chairman as well as president and chief executive officer. He said he will move its headquarters back to Falls Church.

The former chairman, Duke of Energy founder Rockie L. Smith, resigned for "health reasons," according to a company announcement. Owens said Smith weighs "well over 300 pounds" and has been "advised by his doctor his health is in a declining state." Smith is to remain a consultant to TU International and a major stockholder, Owens said.

The announcement came as something of a surprise, because Smith said when he acquired Terminals Unlimited that he wanted to turn TU International into a major computer-peripherals manufacturer in the billion-dollar class.

But according to Dick Clark, an analyst who has followed developments at the company for Fahnestock & Co., Smith was "a company-former, not a company-operator. The subsidiary was the substantive part of the company, and it has risen to the surface."

Clark said the shuffle was "excellent for the company in the short and long term. Owens is a computer man, and he's going to be running a computer company."

Terminals Unlimited, which Owens founded on a shoestring six years ago, was described by Inc. magazine last fall as the fastest-growing private company in the nation. Owens sold it to Smith in December for 3.52 million shares of Duke of Energy's over-the-counter stock, a deal worth $21 million on the basis of Duke's stock price at the time.

Owens said yesterday that he did not buy back his company, but as the head of TU International's biggest unit, he simply moved up to run the entire operation when the other directors of TU International--Smith's former associates--needed a new chairman. "They now report to me," he said. "I have taken control of the company."