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Grescoe, Paul and David Cruise.

Markham (Ont.), Viking, c1985. 288pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-670-80207-7. Distributed by Penguin Canada. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by John H. Harkness

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

The money rustlers, the self-made millionaires from western Canada who are profiled in this book, are "all classic entrepreneurs." The authors call them money rustlers because "the title hints at the cunning, ruthlessness, ingenuity, energy and creativity" they found "at the heart of all of these people and at the core of their various enterprises." From hundreds of promising names, the authors chose sixteen. To write this book, they have synthesized their hundreds of interviews into an account of how these sixteen acquired over five billion dollars in assets. Most of the names are unfamiliar to the eastern Canadian. The one that would come to an Easterner's mind most readily, that of Nelson Skalbania, is excluded, because he ended up a loser. The authors categorize the quintessential rustlers as men (they found no women who qualified) of creative flair, as venturous men with a passion for innovation, but above all, as "intrepid risk-takers." They are "as much visionaries and castle builders as they are money mongers" who all want to control their dreams.

Who then are the "cowboy capitalists?" They have been classified into five groups: "Resource Merchants," "Money Mongers," "Idea Dealers," "Entertainment Entrepreneurs," and "Tomorrow Traders." The names include Brian Heidecker, Alberta farmer/businessman; Ed Alfke, who began "Rent-a-Wreck"; the Ghermezian family, real estate merchants and developers of the giant West Edmonton Mall; Brenda Humber and Gary Hooge, a couple facing unemployment who introduced "Love Shops" to Canada; and Umberto Menghi, Vancouver's "Prince of Pasta." Some you like, some you hate.

It is a book that one picks up and puts down, as, although these are very different personalities, there is something of a sameness about acquiring one million dollars plus. It reads easily, although the fact that C.D. Howe appears as "the liberal Prime Minister in the Second World War" makes one nervous about possible other inaccuracies. There are no photographs of the heroes, but all in all it could be a useful book for modern economics students, and for reference in school libraries.

John H. Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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