It was 25 years ago, Nov. 11, 1998 that Vancouver lost one of the most colourful characters the city has ever known. He died of a heart attack at the age of 77. Murray Pezim aka, “The Pez,” has been called the greatest promoter in Canadian stock market history, was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, and so much more.
Pezim’s big claim to fame was putting Hemlo and Eskay Creek, premier Canadian gold deposits, on the map. That was his expertise, but it was his fearless approach to promotions and business deals outside the mining industry that made him such a flamboyant character! He promoted everything from cassette greeting cards, rejuvenation pills, and a fleet of tugboats to Stampede Oil and Gas. He was the owner of the B.C. Lions Football team, he was the promoter of the Muhammed Ali / George Chuvalo boxing match in Vancouver, and that just scratches the surface. Murray Pezim made and lost fortunes and then made them again, several times over. He really was one of a kind.
At a charity event, Pezim once auctioned the tie he was wearing for $300. Encouraged by the high bid, he took off his shirt and offered it for auction. Nobody wanted it, but one man bid $100 if Pezim would put the shirt back on! Pezim did. "If I can raise money by someone laughing at me, go ahead.” At a roast of Pezim in 1988, roastmaster Milton Berle said, "Thanks to this man, I now have $14 million. Before I met him I had $30 million.”
Murray Pezim was quite the character. My involvement with The Pez goes back to the early 80s when Doriana Temolo and I were news anchors on CKVU TV’s 6:00 newscast. I was at my desk one day when the phone rang, it was someone from Murray Pezim’s office. He said that Murray had something interesting he wanted me to see, it would only take an hour and a car would come by to pick me up. I had met Murray at a couple of social fundraising events, and I knew his background, so I was intrigued.
A limo arrived and the driver opened the back door, and I got in to find the head professional of the Vancouver Golf Club, Al Nelson! I said, “Al, what are you doing here?” He said he didn’t know, he had just received a phone call with the same message I got, saying that a car would pick him up. So, there we were in a limo, riding through the streets of Vancouver. We ended up in a back alley in Yaletown. It felt like a movie, the kind of movie that didn’t end well if you know what I mean. We went into an old brick building, took an elevator up and when the doors opened, we emptied into a large room filled with people in suits. On a table in the middle of the room was a big clear plastic dome. As Al and I got closer, we saw that under the dome was an architect’s model of a golf course, complete with hills and valleys, little trees and fairways.
A few minutes later Murray arrived and gave a pitch about a new golf course that was planned for Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island, overlooking Butchart Gardens. He also hoped to have a PGA tour event “The Pez Open” take place on the new course. Others spoke and filled in details of the plans that included a resort hotel, and the possible timing of construction. All dependent of course on zoning and building permit approvals. The Pez always went “muy grande” with his ideas and promotions!
I turned to Al Nelson and quietly asked him if it was possible to build a course as quickly as they said, and did he think the PGA would consider a Tour event for this new course? Al didn’t think so. He said it would take much longer than planned for the fairways to be ready for regular play, much less a professional golf tournament. He also didn’t think there was any chance the PGA would add an event to an unknown, untried golf course, even if there was room on the West Coast tour swing, which there wasn’t.
The assembled crowd of prospective investors seemed very excited about the idea. I probably would have been too, had I not heard what Al Nelson thought of the idea. But why were Al and I there? “The Golf Gods” knew that I didn’t have any money to invest.
Back at the TV station, I was thinking about the golf project when the phone rang, it was Pezim’s office. The voice on the line wondered if I enjoyed the presentation and would there be a story about it on the evening news. It suddenly became obvious why I was invited to see this new venture. Murray loved media attention and needed it for this golf project. I explained that if they had wanted a story on the news they invited the wrong guy. Yes, I was the news anchor on the 6:00 news, but I had absolutely no influence on what stories ran on the newscast. Those decisions were made by the assignment editor, the news director, and the producer of the newscast, not the news anchor. It was then I also guessed that golf professional Al Nelson was invited to no doubt lend golf credibility to the presentation, even though Al wasn’t endorsing the plan.
Needless to say, Al Nelson was right, the golf course was never built and the PGA event never happened. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t, but Murray was never the type to back away from a grand idea.
In Murray Pezim’s office there was a framed quote:
I saw a man chasing the horizon.
I shouted to him, “You'll never reach it.”
He replied, “You lie.”
And rushed on
That was the Pez.
Till next week...
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2