|Bold mom gets a hearing
|'Could you spare us 15
minutes?" ex-client of Thow asks head of Berkshire parent firm
Andrew A. Duffy
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Kathy Olson saw the opening Wednesday
night and took it.
The Victoria dental assistant and mother of three stepped up, hand
outstretched, and introduced herself to Michael Lee-Chin, founder and
chairman of AIC Ltd., parent of the Berkshire Group of Companies.
"Mr. Lee-Chin, my name is Kathy Olson I am an investor with Berkshire
and one of Ian Thow's victims, could you spare us 15 minutes?" she
Olson is one of a slew of investors and
disgruntled Berkshire clients who claim former Berkshire senior
investment adviser Ian Thow owes them millions.
Her bold move, made as Lee-Chin walked without comment past the media
and into a welcoming meeting of AIC advisers, earned her and the handful
of Thow creditors who turned up to the Laurel Point Inn to confront the
Berkshire boss an immediate face-to-face conference.
|Kathy Olson, a onetime
client of former Berkshire investment adviser Ian Thow, meets
Michael Anthony Lee-Chin, founder and chairman of AIC Ltd.,
parent of the Berkshire Group of Companies. "You know, I just
thought 'what do I have to lose,'" said Olson. So, how was
Lee-Chin? "Charming," Olson said.
Photograph by : Bruce Stotesbury,
The Thow creditors say Berkshire's head
office has refused to meet with them or discuss their cases since Thow
left at the end of May. Thow was subsequently thrown into bankruptcy by
his creditors in Canada and has also filed for bankruptcy in the U.S.
"You know, I just thought 'what do I have to lose,'" said Olson after
the meeting with Lee-Chin. "We're all a little bit damaged at this
Lee-Chin, who went to his AIC banquet immediately after the meeting, did
not speak with the media other than to suggest speaking with the Thow
creditors would be more appropriate.
The Thow creditors, who have at times said they felt betrayed by both
Thow and Berkshire, were cautious about allowing optimism to tinge their
perspective on Wednesday's impromptu meeting.
"It's a start, [Lee-Chin] has promised he will be investigating all the
cases and will get back to us to follow up," said Andrea Racicot, who
says she has known Thow for more than 25 years. "We'll see if he comes
"[Lee-Chin] is very charming and he seemed genuinely concerned, but we
have heard all that before," she said, noting it was Thow's charm that
convinced her to trust him. "Having dealt with Ian and having trusted
him and been burned by him that way, I am hesitant to trust people."
Olson echoed her concerns.
"It's all well and good for representatives of Berkshire to say they are
here for us," she said. "The big problem has been the lack of
approachability. This is the first time Michael Lee-Chin has even
acknowledged to any of us that anything has been going on."
Evelyn Tennant, who claims to have lost $1.3 million in an investment
scheme in the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica, reiterated the
face-to-face meeting was a start for Thow creditors getting back some of
But she was still questioning why Berkshire didn't keep closer tabs on
Thow, a senior vice-president.
"They should have had a better grasp of what he was doing," she said.
Olson said many of the Thow creditors have been told Berkshire's head
office knew little of what was happening with regards to Thow, and in
fact had no real grasp of the extent of the situation.
Olson and husband Pat, a firefighter, lost $100,000 through a short-term
loan scheme Thow set up for them "We put a lot of faith in a man who us
locals have known for years and years and years."
Racicot claims to have lost a few hundred thousand dollars. She said
there's concern they may have to sell the family home.