Andrew A. Duffy
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Rumour mill is busy after financial adviser leaves Berkshire Investment
It's the story no one is telling, but everyone is talking about.
It's rife with lawsuits containing allegations of fraud and the misuse of
funds, jetset lifestyles and what appears to be an impending Icarus-like
fall to earth.
This is the unfolding Ian Thow story, a tale that has been buzzing through
the Victoria business community since news of the senior investment
adviser's resignation from Berkshire Investment Group became public last
According to Berkshire officials, Thow resigned June 1 and the company
says it is investigating what it calls his outside business activities.
The 44-year-old Thow is also the defendant in a series of lawsuits that
revolve around an investment scheme in the National Commercial Bank of
Jamaica, and is in arbitration over a dispute with a business partner over
a $3-million jet.
There are those who will tell you this story started humming quietly
months earlier, but they are the same people who are avoiding public
comment on Thow's position now.
But you can still hear it in boardrooms, offices and across lunch tables
around the city.
People like the Goodwin family of Richmond and other Thow clients have
told the Times Colonist about the lavish lifestyle he lived, about trips
to Jamaica to see their investment, about lavish spreads, meetings and
dinners that instilled confidence they were dealing with a man of means.
Brad Goodwin says the cars, the jets, the trips all painted the picture of
a guy who could make things happen. But Goodwin and other clients have
said when they starting asking for their money that picture changed.
There are three lawsuits filed in B.C. Supreme Court at this point and one
in Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. There is plenty of speculation there
are more to come -- some of them from Victoria and the Island.
But no one seems quite ready to talk about that yet.
One man, however, is sick of the lack of discussion to the point he has
taken $10,000 worth of action.
Jurgen Weyand, who pledged $25,000 to the Greater Victoria Hospitals
Foundation in five payments of $5,000, has pulled the final two payments
because the GVHF will neither confirm nor deny a $500,000 pledge from Thow
was ever received.
The GVHF will only cite privacy legislation that prevents it from
discussing a gift or pledge without the consent of a donor.
"That goes for all donors," said executive director Melanie McKenzie, who
would not confirm it was Weyand who pulled his financial pledge.
But Weyand, who wants confirmation of the pledge one way or the other, was
"I'm obviously not happy," he said. "And I won't be the last (to withdraw
McKenzie says the GVHF is troubled a donor has withdrawn a pledge over
this issue, but stands by the policy of not discussing such a gift.
"We are deeply concerned that all this is affecting us," she said, adding
a number of former and current donors have called with concerns. "Most of
them have been satisfied with our response, but yes this is concerning."
The investment community is likely to be similarly touched by this story.
John Kyle, adjunct professor of business ethics at the University of
Victoria, says the industry likely won't feel the sting in a story like
this, but an individual firm will.
While Berkshire advisers referred all calls to their Burlington, Ont. head
office, it is understood they and other firms -- like Investors Group
where Thow worked before joining Berkshire -- are spending some time
assuaging clients' concerns.
Both head offices of Berkshire and Investors Group did not return calls
Monday. Thow's Vancouver-based lawyer could also not be reached by press