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Creditors line up at Thow hearing


Malcolm Curtis

Friday, July 29, 2005

Thrifty Foods chairman Alex Campbell has added his name to the list of creditors claiming to be owed a total of almost $42 million by Victoria investment adviser Ian Thow.

The development emerged Thursday when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Grant Burnyeat appointed Wolrige Mahon Ltd. as a receiver to allow Thow to organize his financial affairs.

Ted Hanman, a lawyer for Campbell, filed an affidavit claiming about $4 million owed to the grocery store magnate from investments made with Berkshire Investment Group through Thow, said Vancouver lawyer Katherine Ducey.

Ducey is acting for another group of creditors, the Goodwin family of Richmond, which is claiming more than $1 million from Thow.

More than a dozen lawyers appeared in a Vancouver courtroom to represent some of the 58 companies and individuals claiming money from the investment adviser, who left Berkshire on May 31.

Thow and the company he once represented are also facing four lawsuits from investors in a scheme involving the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.

The high-flying broker owns four planes, a helicopter, several flashy cars, a waterfront mansion in rural Saanich and a penthouse apartment in The Reef, a Victoria condo building, among other assets, valued in excess of $20 million. Those assets have been frozen by a judicial order, while a 19-metre yacht Thow once owned was seized by M & P Mercury Sales.

Apart from the house, in which he is believed to have equity, all the trappings of a successful jet-setter were financed through loans that have been called by various financial institutions.

Lawyers for the creditors had hoped Thursday to put Thow into bankruptcy immediately in order to begin recouping some of the money claimed.

But Ducey called the trustee situation "absolutely workable."

What remains in question is how much unsecured creditors will be able to retrieve at the end of the process.

Secured creditors, such as the banks that lent Thow money for assets that can be sold, are first in line to receive money, Ducey said.

GE Canada Equipment Financing is the biggest creditor, claiming $15 million that it lent Thow for the purchase of a Bell helicopter, Cessna Citation plane and a Cessna Bravo plane. The Bank of Nova Scotia provided a $2.9-million mortgage on Thow's home at 8338 West Saanich Rd., which has an assessed value of $4.6 million. Other creditors include the developer of The Reef, where Thow moved his Berkshire office into a lavish suite at 120-21 Erie St. earlier this year.

Apart from Campbell, more than two dozen private investors from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and Alberta each claim Thow owes them amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ducey expects more creditors will come forward. She said claims need to be filed with the trustee within the next three weeks.

The receiver has 21 days to make a proposal that will be put to creditors

A telephone call to Thow's lawyer, Rod Anderson, was not returned. Campbell could not be reached.

Representatives of Berkshire Investment Group did not appear at Thursday's court hearing.


Ian Thow takes flight