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VANCOUVER — This seems out of character: Frank Giustra, one of Canada’s wealthiest and most guarded businessmen, is openly seething. Smacking the boardroom table and swearing.
“I can’t deal with this anymore,” snaps the mining and entertainment magnate. To his horror, he’s become hot political fodder south of the border. All because of his close relationship with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, suggestions of influence-peddling through related charities the two men established and a growing scandal ensnaring Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I’ve spent the last 10 days doing nothing but dealing with media calls. I can’t get anything done,” Giustra says, his voice starting to crack the longer our interview inside his downtown Vancouver office this week continues. “It’s out of control. It’s a f—ing circus.”
A rags-to-riches multi-millionaire who normally shuns publicity, Giustra made his fortune as a stockbroker before “retiring” two decades ago, shy of his 40th birthday. An ugly, Bre-X-style gold mining scandal caused by others was singeing his feathers and creating what he describes as “internal conflict” at Yorkton Securities Inc., the Vancouver-based brokerage he headed.
He quit the business forever and created a film company, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., which found success in Hollywood. (He’s mostly out of that, but is still a company director and has a large stake in another film studio, Thunderbird Films.) He eventually formed what might seem an unlikely alliance with the former U.S. president. They come from completely different backgrounds, but have some things in common: A taste for philanthropy, and a knack for finding money.
Giustra insists that neither he nor Bill Clinton has done anything wrong with their charitable endeavours. And indeed, there’s no evidence of any wrongdoing. Not for the first time, they’ve become targets of speculation, what Giustra insists are baseless smear jobs, “vicious and agenda-driven.”
Requested four months ago, our interview was finally scheduled this week, with the controversies still brewing. We were to focus on Giustra’s new interests, including the quality food business. A self-described food “fanatic,” he holds a majority stake in Modern Farmer, a quirky, New York-based farm-to-table magazine now in the midst of a management shakeup. The magazine’s founding editor “was a very good editor, but these things need to be looked at as a business,” says Giustra, without offering more details.
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