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'He put us under his spell': Investors describe dealings with Thow


Richard Watts

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Victoria senior who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars with embattled investment adviser Ian Thow says he never worried about whether his money was safe.

Irving Lozier, an 85-year-old retired teacher, said as far as he was concerned, he was investing with Berkshire Investment Group, where Thow was employed until May 31.

"[Thow] was a marvellous talker," said Lozier, who is listed in public documents as being owed $325,000, but said his investment was far more. "It's something, it's amazing."

Lozier's claim against Thow is one of 58 totalling about $42 million filed by individuals and companies. On Thursday, a receiver was appointed in the case. Neither Thow nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Friday.

Brad Goodwin, whose family invested over $1.3 million with Thow, described him as "the most charming man." "He made you feel so good about having him as an investment adviser," said the 45-year-old former airline pilot. Now living on a disability pension, Goodwin said he invested about $568,000 with Thow, although he managed to get much of it back and is now owed $253,000.

"He worked us and he worked us over and put us under his spell," said Goodwin.

But once Goodwin had handed over all his available money, including a mortgage taken out on a previously clear-title home, Thow's manner changed, he said.

Telephone calls were ignored. E-mails went unanswered. And Thow's manner actually became "ugly," said Goodwin.

While he was with Berkshire, the high-flying Thow had four planes, a helicopter, flashy cars, a waterfront mansion in rural Saanich and a Victoria penthouse condo, among other assets valued at more than $20 million.

But apart from the house, it was all financed, and many of those loans are now being called in.

Those stepping up to reclaim money from Thow range from the wealthy and successful -- such as Thrifty Foods chairman Alex Campbell, who's claiming about $4 million -- to people such as Lozier and Goodwin.

Receiver Michael Cheevers of Vancouver's Wolrige Mahon Ltd. said anyone else owed money by Thow should contact him quickly, and be prepared to supply copies of all transaction records.

That means they should gather up copies of cheques and backs of cheques -- anything to show money handed over to Thow.

"Our biggest task is to try and account for all the transactions that have taken place," said Cheevers. "Part of our accounting is who paid how much to Mr. Thow and when."

The B.C. Supreme Court justice in Vancouver who appointed the receiver -- whose job is to try to get as much of the creditors' money back as possible -- rejected calls to put Thow into bankruptcy, giving him 30 days to work out a proposal for repayments. The decision was based in part on the prospect, raised in court by Thow's lawyer, of a $5-million loan to Thow from an unnamed third party.

Once Thow's repayment proposal is completed, creditors will be asked to accept or reject the deal at a meeting that must be held within 21 days.

Berkshire Investment Group, which has dissociated itself from Thow's "outside business activities," sent no representatives to Thursday's court session.

Creditors who wish to contact the receiver can call Michael Cheevers, at 604-684-6212, Wolrige Mahon Ltd. 9th Floor, 400 Burrard St., Vancouver.


Ian Thow takes flight