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Campbell a part of Thow saga
Co-founder of Thrifty Foods, many others, awaiting bankruptcy decision


Andrew A. Duffy

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thrifty Foods chairman Alex Campbell Sr. invested millions of dollars with Berkshire Investment Group through former investment adviser Ian Thow over the years.

Now the patriarch of the Campbell family and the man who built the Thrifty Foods brand into an icon is concerned about the state of his portfolio.

"There are more questions than answers right now," said Ted Hanman, Campbell's legal representative, who wonders whether Campbell is facing substantial losses.

Thow, who left Berkshire in June, is facing about 30 legal actions totalling $30 million brought by former clients, building owners and businesses.

Campbell is awaiting a response from Berkshire as to where his portfolio stands. "We're looking for answers," said Hanman.

They're not alone. The cavalcade of legal activity was triggered by four separate lawsuits naming Thow and Berkshire and revolving around an investment scheme in the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.

According to writs filed in B.C. Supreme Court and the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, the suits stem from a scheme where clients wrote cheques to Thow's numbered company to purchase shares in the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica to be held in trust.

Those court documents allege Thow told his clients their investments were soaring, but when the clients demanded their money, they received either a small fraction of the investment or nothing at all.

In an affidavit, Thow denied advising the Goodwin family of Richmond -- one of four parties suing over the investment -- to enter such a scheme.

More lawsuits are believed to be pending.

Two were recently filed in Victoria -- Victoria resident Tom Vickers is suing Thow to recover a $100,000 loan he made to him in March of this year, and Coast Capital Savings has filed suit to declare a $577,000 mortgage in default.

Those parties will likely be added to a long list of creditors who will be all ears for a B.C. Supreme Court decision Thursday morning. The court is expected to decide if Thow will be put into bankruptcy by creditors or will do so under his own terms.

Creditors want Thow put into bankruptcy immediately and a trustee of their choice appointed receiver.

Last Thursday, Thow filed notice of his intention to make a proposal to his creditors under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Katherine Ducey, legal counsel for the Goodwin family, which is suing Thow for $1.05 million over the Jamaican bank investment, said creditors typically choose the trustee in such cases.

Calls to Rod Anderson, Thow's legal representative in Vancouver, were not returned. Calls to Berkshire's head office in Burlington, Ont., were also not returned.

That came as no surprise to Brad Goodwin.

"Where is Berkshire in all this? They are taking out ads to distance themselves from their clients, but we haven't heard from them," he said. "[Thow] was their representative."

In previous interviews, Berkshire officials have said the company is investigating what it called Thow's outside business activities.



Ian Thow takes flight