Oct. 14, 1991
Oct. 14, 1991

Table of Contents
Oct. 14, 1991

Washington Redskins
Bobby Bonilla
NHL Anniversary
Jock Dorms
Eric Green
Murray Pezim
Point After


Murray Pezim, owner of the British Columbia Lions of the CFL, is one wild and crazy guy—and proud of it

By Douglas S. Looney

Up in the owner's box at Vancouver's B.C. Place stadium, during a Canadian Football League game involving the British Columbia Lions, an old fat guy is on his feet. On his hands are huge orange mittens that look like lion paws. He is waving them and growling like a lion in support of the Lions. Fans look up at him with a mixture of amusement, amazement, bewilderment and contempt.

This is an article from the Oct. 14, 1991 issue Original Layout

He is Murray Pezim, 70. He owns the Lions. He knows nothing about football. Never mind, says Pezim. "I'm a natural, kooky owner."

He is one of Canada's richest citizens, having discovered, he says, more gold than anyone anywhere in history—more than 40 million ounces. He hates gold jewelry and won't wear it. He is, he says, the greatest promoter in the world. He is, he says, borderline brilliant. He is appealing a one-year suspension of his trading rights on the Vancouver Stock Exchange for allegedly having failed to disclose material facts in a 1989 insider-trading case. Of his chief antagonist, Vancouver superintendent of brokers Wade Nesmith, Pezim says, "Nesmith is an incompetent idiot, a power-hungry, arrogant schmuck. Did I forget twerp? Look, I'm a character. People expect me to get charged with something at least once a day." Nesmith refuses to discuss Pezim.

The Pez is routinely in the headlines of Vancouver papers:




Pezim is, Pezim says, "a nut case." Believe it.

Because he understates.

Murray Pezim lives somewhere beyond Outrageous. To get there, drive to Crazed, keep going toward Bonkers via Berserk, then slow at Around the Bend and look for signs.

More than anything, Pezim wants to impress. Consider what he did one day in 1957 when he desperately wanted to curry favor with five female flight attendants around a hotel pool in Jamaica. He executed a gorgeous swan dive off the low board. The pool held no water. He was, he says, in a coma for four days and a body cast for eight months. "I impressed 'em," he says. "It was worth it."

Not long ago at a charity event, Pezim auctioned the tie he was wearing for almost $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," he says. "Take your best shot." 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." Don Rickles told Pezim at the same event, "With that nose, as you breathe, my socks are coming up." Pezim thinks Rickles is hilarious.

So is this man a driving force in sports and finance in Canada and beyond, or is he just a buffoon? Or both? Depends. One high-level football source, who insists on anonymity because he fears Pezim's power, says, "The man is a promoter, so all he has are his words—and none of them can be believed." On the other paw, Bill Reid, a member of the British Columbia legislature, says, "If Murray hadn't stepped in and bought this team before last season, the Lions would have failed, and without Vancouver, there is no CFL. So all he did was save the league. He came to the party, became the messiah, and very few know."

Former Lion coach Annis Stukus says, "Murray isn't appreciated because, frankly, he has made too much money—and he's Jewish."

It is true that Pezim stepped up and plunked down $1.7 mil for the Lions in the fall of '89, when other big hitters cleared their throats and looked the other way. Says Pezim, "I got a call about 11 a.m. from Cliff Michaels [then a British Columbia cabinet minister], who said, 'The Lions are ready to go under. You've got to help.' At seven that evening, I was at the Chartwell restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver having dinner with the league's board of governors. They invited me. But I paid the check." It was for $1,080. Pezim's former chief financial officer, R.J. Gayton, says Pezim "never asked for the opinion of any of his management team before he did this, probably because he knew we'd be unanimously against it."

"As I look back, it was not a good price," Pezim admits. What would have been a good price? "If they had paid me $1.5 million." He laughs. Money makes Pezim laugh. In his first football season, 1990, he lost $2.3 million. "I'll break even this year," he says. For that to happen, the team will have to average home crowds of 40,000; to date, after six games, the average is 38,009. Pezim figured he would get $1.4 million in TV revenue for this season; he'll get about $650,000. On the plus side, the Lions are a surging team; their record through Sunday was 9-5.

"Why did I buy the Lions?" Pezim muses. "Well, why do you get married? Just because it seems like a good idea at the time. You don't think. But you do it because it has a chance." Pezim has been married three times. A year ago, he had his intended fourth wife, Tammy Patrick, 29, walk out on the football field before a home game wearing a jersey that read 4 EVER. He hasn't yet married her. "I'm never getting married again," he says. "Never, ever." Pause. "But I'm weak." Murray's brother, Norman, says he thinks Murray "got into football just to prove he could do other things besides find gold."

There is chaos around Pezim's $2.2 million winter home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., just outside Phoenix. Tammy, who says that she wants to be a filmmaker, is pasting together a collage for an art class she is taking. Plans are afoot to go to the grocery store. Tammy isn't going. But she is shouting that she wants eucalyptus oil, frozen peas, frozen strawberries and a doggie bed. Murray is paying no attention. Pearl Whalley, the maid, who looks like no maid you have ever seen before, has Visa on the phone and is pleading for Murray to pay her $800 balance. "Come on, Mur," she screams. "Most of this stuff is for your ex-wives, anyway." He says no. Many times. Firmly. Then pays. Another friend, Julie No-Last-Name-Please-Please, is preparing for the shopping.

Eventually, the group is off for the Safeway in the Scottsdale Shopping Center. Murray turns up the volume on the CD player. "Just a gigolo, everywhere I go...." Suddenly, he shushes everyone. "Here comes the good part." And it is: "I ain't got nobody...." Just a little slice of Americana, a typical trip to the market.

"I have a routine," explains Murray at the Safeway. "We go up and down each row, carefully making our purchases after consulting with each other." Pearl laughs. "Yeah," she says, "our routine is to pile as much in the buggies as we can." Pearl asks Murray if he wants turkey bacon. "No," he says. So Pearl gets two packages. Julie suggests a cake mix called Lovin' Lites. Murray grumps, "I don't like anything 'lite.' " Julie throws two boxes in the cart. Murray asks Pearl if they need eggs. "No, I don't need or want eggs," she says. He puts two dozen in the cart.

This is, as you can see, a cooperative effort. Nobody is in charge, which makes everyone in charge. One of the shoppers screams for matzo balls while another complains that her fellow shoppers won't help her find the Pepto-Bismol. The bill is $378.59.

Next stop is next door at the specialty shop for the eucalyptus oil that Tammy demanded. "Eucalyptus oil and that's all," instructs Murray. Pearl and Julie scour the small shop, picking up aromatic bath oil, Kristal Natural Mineral Bath Crystals from the Dead Sea, and mineral bath crystals not from the Dead Sea. The bill is $80.03. They forget the eucalyptus oil.

Nothing is simple in Pezim's life. Although his main business is mining—gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc—he wants, above all else, to make deals. The deal, in many ways, is more important to him than the money. That's why he has agreed to meet with a group that wants to put various juices in containers carrying pictures of athletes.

At 9:22 a.m., five men in suits—including L.A. Raider running back Marcus Allen and two-time All-Pro defensive back Mike Haynes—walk into Pezim's house. They look very businesslike. They want $5 million from Pezim. For this meeting, Pezim has elected to wear baggy pants, a sweatshirt and slippers. He sits down on the black carpet with the white diamonds around the edges.

The visitors are trying to make a professional presentation, which is difficult because Pezim wanders off to talk on the phone to friends, and seven dogs race about doing some high-decibel yapping. Abruptly, at 9:54 a.m., Pezim interrupts. He always interrupts. It's a perk of being rich.

"You're in business," he says.

The visitors are stunned. No business plan was discussed. There were no charts, no samples. Allen rolls his eyes in disbelief. "I ain't believing what I'm seeing," he says. Suddenly the phones are alive with calls to lawyers and accountants and advisers and brokers and underwriters. Pezim says he'll put in $2 million of his own money and raise the other $3 mil. The visitors are ecstatic. Pezim is distracted again, this time by his aquarium. "Why," he asks of anyone who is listening, "do I have 14 fish in here and I never get to see any of them? Why?" Nobody can give him an answer.

Then he's back in the spirit of the deal. He puts on his new Louis Prima-Keely Smith CD. He turns it up loud. Nobody likes it except Pezim. The music plays on. Pearl is flying around making breakfast. Pezim is puttering around picking up coffee cups and juice glasses, the debris of the deal. Allen gets into the cleanup spirit. "I do this at home," he says, "so why not here?" Pezim carefully straightens his coffee-table books, Desert Images and French Impressionists. He looks at the turmoil and confusion and says, "When I'm around, there is action."

All this opulence ("You can find my house," he tells a caller. "Just drive to the neighborhood where the rich people live") is light years from Pezim's childhood in Toronto. "My dad, Isadore, was a bootlegger," he says. "Actually, he said he was a druggist, and he had two stores, but all he sold in them was liquor." Subsequently, the old man got out of the drugstore business and into a butcher shop. There, Murray discovered his talent for selling.

"These poor, horrible-looking, downtrodden women who had been beaten by their husbands during the night would show up with six or eight cents to buy meat," he recalls. "I'd say, 'Mrs. O'Brien, you look so beautiful this morning. Let me just look at you.' They loved it. It was a bright moment in their dull lives. It got so they wouldn't buy meat from anyone but me. Sure it was phony, but so what? It made them feel better. This job also gave me insights into women. I've always liked women better than men. Most men are jerks."

Pezim also learned the ways of the streets in Toronto. He was attacked regularly. "Being beaten up," he says, "teaches you to smarten up and become better." So he got a section of pipe, beat the tar out of a tormentor and was never bothered again.

Working in the meat market, Pezim diligently saved his money. By 1950, he had saved about $12,000. A broker talked him into investing in—he'll never forget the name—Duvay Copper, a company that prospected for mines. Pezim lost all his money in six weeks. "But," he says, "I figured I'd better check this business out, because if I was losing this kind of money, that sure as hell meant someone was making it." He started learning the mining markets, and by 1953 he was a broker. Today, Pezim estimates he is worth "oh, it's hard to value me, about $30 to $40 million, plus power and control, which is more important." When it comes to cars he owns, well, he's not sure about them, either. In fact, he has five Mercedes plus a Toyota Land Cruiser that he bought just to have something big enough to hold the groceries.

Pearl is on the phone. She's always on the phone. "Get off the phone," Pezim instructs. She turns her back. Haughtily. And talks on.

Pezim is back in Vancouver, sitting in a hot tub at his palatial spread on English Bay. The house will soon be sold for $5.5 mil. "Life is good," he chortles. "You get all this. Who needs money?

"You are sitting in the cleanest water in the world," he says. Pezim didn't intend it to be that way. It just happened. When he was having the house built two years ago, he told the contractor that he loved clean water. So the contractor made sure it was really clean. He installed a water purification system that many small towns would love to have. It cost nearly $300,000. "So enjoy it," Pezim says, and he laughs. Remember, money always makes Pezim laugh.

Things may be good, but that's not to say business is good. It's not. It stinks. The Vancouver Stock Exchange, in which Pezim is, arguably, the biggest player, has fallen on hard times. Because of his suspension from trading—not yet enforced because of the appeal—Pezim is having a hard time raising money for his deals. He's mad because walk-up ticket sales for the Lions are poor. Yet he says, "I enjoy the good times and I enjoy the aggravation." Pezim loves the story about a jury foreman in a stock-fraud case who announces, "We find this promoter guilty of serious fraud and stock manipulation, and we all want to buy his next deal." Pezim throws his hands up in laughter.

And before the laughter dies, he's talking about his career in the Canadian Army, described in various publications as including a stint as an infantryman in Europe. Well, no, says Pezim. What he really did was drive a supply truck in Jamaica while staying at the Casablanca Hotel in Montego Bay. Well, he didn't drive the truck. He paid somebody else to drive it. That left him free to tend to his battalion's round-the-clock crap games at the hotel. Pezim chortles. He is a great chortler.

Above all, Pezim prides himself on being a good loser—in fact, a great loser. He kicks at the bubbling water in the hot tub and tries to remember how many times he has gone broke. "Four, maybe five," he concludes. So what's broke? "Having less than $10 million."

In truth, broke for him is having just $59. That was how much he had in 1972. He cherishes the memory.

Seems he had just spent almost $11 mil trying to take over Armour meat-packing. He had failed. And he was down to his last $250,000. So, naturally, he decided to promote a fight between Muhammad Ali and George Chuvalo in-Vancouver. He gave Ali $200,000, Chuvalo $50,000—and the fight was a fiasco. Fewer than 9,000 fans showed up at Pacific Coliseum; during the fight, Murray's wife at the time, Marilyn, got blood all over her white dress; and a few days later—honest—the Pezims were picking up soft-drink cans and turning them in for deposit money to get enough to eat. Finally, with $6.20, they went to a McDonald's on Robson Street in Vancouver "and had a delicious meal," Pezim says. "It was exhilarating. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes." (No wonder Berle cracks that Pezim is "the poster boy for bankruptcy.") Three months later, Pezim says, "I bought a lime company based in Douglas, Arizona, for $2.5 million, and I truly didn't have a cent. Actually, what I did was get my friends to buy it for me." Four years later, Pezim sold the lime company for $45 million, with his share coming to $10 million. "It's always nice to have a successful deal," he says. Murray Pezim has been up and down and all around.

But for all his nonsense, there is seriousness of purpose in Pezim. In his office in downtown Vancouver there is a framed quote placed so he can see it every time he looks up from his desk:

I saw a man chasing the horizon.
I shouted to him, 'You'll never reach it."
He replied, 'You lie."
And rushed on.

In truth, this man has everything the material world can offer. But if he could have one more thing? "Another major gold discovery," he says. Pezim is not a backward-looking guy who wants to talk about Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and gold mines past.

"History will not make you a dime," he says. "All it does is give you knowledge." He's planning to buy a Hollywood film studio.

Meanwhile, things continue in chaos around his Vancouver home. It's an unmanageable menagerie. Which, apparently, is how Pezim likes it. There is always a variety of women wandering around. Gee, Murray, do they all love you? He turns serious because, after all, women are serious business. "Well, they love me because I'm good-hearted," he says. "It's not head over heels, moon over Miami. They just love me as a person. I know how to treat them. Young guys today don't know how to treat women. I'm exciting. I'm fun."

With that, one woman slides into the tub beside him and starts chattering. Finally, having heard enough, Pezim says, "Keep your mouth shut and your IQ will go up." Yup, it's all in knowing how to treat a woman.

The gardener, Shelley Tranelis, who looks like no gardener you've ever seen, is describing a normal day in her life and in the life of Pearl the Maid: "Gardener gets up at 5 a.m., pulls weeds by flashlight. Maid gets up at 9 a.m. Gardener does housework. Maid is on phone by 10. Maid works out at 11. Gardener finishes beds. Gardener prepares big lunch for maid at noon. Maid leaves to go shopping. Gardener returns to her gardening. Maid gets home from shopping with lots of packages moments before Murray gets home. Maid rests. Gardener returns to gardening with fresh Duracells."

Pezim screams at Pearl to get off the phone. She issues a rude retort and returns to her conversation.

Las Vegas is Pezim's natural environment: fake, showy, always promising more than it can deliver. "God, I love it here!" he exults in the Mirage hotel. He visits Vegas about 10 times a year. "They give me everything," he says. "I'm good for business." Limos, suites, food, a gambling line of credit of $200,000 at many of the hotels. We are talking major sucking up. Pezim walks through the casino at the Mirage, and the voices of the employees ring out:

"Hello, Mr. Pezim."

"Good to see you, Mr. Pezim."

"Nice to have you back, Mr. Pezim."

"Can I do anything for you now, Mr. Pezim?"

A waitress brings him a cup of coffee. He gives her a $100 tip.

"I'm so good at gambling," he says, "that they ought to bar me from the casinos." That said, he loses $18,900 at the Sands Hotel crap tables in 28 minutes. He shrugs. Walks outside. Gets into his waiting limo and heads back to the Mirage. Immediately on arrival, he wins $16,500. He drinks a cup of coffee, wins another $8,800 and ultimately finishes the day $9,000 up.

"When I'm around, people know there is gonna be action," he says. "That's why everybody loves me. I'm a maker of dreams. I'm a motivator. I show others that all things are possible. And even if I lose money, I have a lot of laughs. I don't do bad for a Jew from Toronto."

Pezim says he has won as much as $300,000 and lost as much as $100,000 in a single visit to Las Vegas. He has lost so much money in his life and made so many bad deals that he is inured to it. Yet talking about his losses can propel him into gales of laughter. For his bar mitzvah, his family didn't have much money and could afford only a little bit of ice cream. Murray didn't get any. He vowed then that someday he would have all the ice cream he wanted. That was how it came to pass, in 1985, that he bought the rights to Swensen's 46 ice cream stores in Canada and promptly lost nearly $4 million. "It really bombed," he says.

Then there was Spartan Air Services, the Toronto-based helicopter company. Pezim paid $1 for it in 1959. The firm had 42 helicopters and 26 fixed-wing craft. He lost almost $1.5 million in two years. Trying to make the company fly, Pezim opened a division in Argentina and made, he says, "a fortune"—except that ultimately he could get none of the aircraft or the money out of the country. He lost all of both.

On the other hand, in the '50s, Pezim bought 100,000 shares of Denison Mines at 40¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a share. A year later, he sold each share for $17. In 1968, looking for sulfur in the foothills of the Alberta Rockies, he inadvertently stumbled onto the biggest natural-gas field ever found in Canada. Almost overnight, stock in Pezim's Stampede Oil went from 45¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a share to $27. Pezim's haul was $12.6 million. "You develop a reputation," he explains, "then the rest comes to you. That, of course, doesn't mean some people wouldn't want to see me dead." It's the same old story: Winners love him, losers hate him.

Pezim generally goes to Vegas for the fights. "I love the boxing scum," he says with admiration. "They are the worst. [Don] King, [Bob] Arum, they're all bums. They are all crap. I love 'em." He's in town for the first Tyson-Ruddock fight, in March. He has met a woman named Janet, so he promptly calls Tammy, who is in Arizona.

"Tammy, great news," he says. "I just met a gorgeous woman, a debutante, so don't try to compete."

On to the fight. He has $800 ringside seats. Complimentary, of course. He got a ticket for Janet. A fellow fight fan asks to be introduced to her "if you don't mind the competition." Pezim snorts, "I have no competition."

Another woman, this one triumphantly blonde, walks by and Pezim says, "Gorgeous outfit." She smiles appreciatively. He kibitzes with everyone. "The problem with you," another fan says to Pezim, "is you don't have any fun."

Having fun, to Pezim, also means being forgiving. A year ago, he signed former New York Jets star Mark Gastineau to a $70,000 contract to play for the Lions. Gastineau was awful. "Mark has got two problems," says Pezim. "He won't try, and he's not too bright." But, hey, that doesn't mean they can't be friends. Back in Vegas for the second Tyson-Ruddock fight, in June, Pezim meets Gastineau, and Gastineau says he has no shirt or tie. No problem. Pezim goes downstairs at the Mirage to one of the world's most overpriced stores, d. Fine, and buys Gastineau a shirt and tie. For $600. Pezim once planned to share his Vancouver home with Gastineau and his girlfriend of the moment, Brigitte Nielsen. But that romance fell apart, and now Gastineau is mostly in New York trying to learn to be a boxer. Pezim is toying with the idea of a bout between Gastineau and George Foreman. Gastineau, of course, would last something shy of 20 seconds, but who knows, maybe there would be money in it.

Says Pezim, "My philosophy is, Always invest before you investigate."

Additionally, Pezim is involved with two Russian fighters, one of whom is heavyweight Alex Zolkin. "He's the great white hope," says Pezim. "He'll be great, but he hasn't fought in the U.S. yet." Turns out, Zolkin has fought twice in Miami, which is generally considered to be in the U.S. But that's O.K. Pezim often doesn't get things exactly right.

This infatuation with boxing began in Pezim's youth. Back in Toronto, two of his friends started to fight one day in the street. Murray stopped them and said, "Come fight in my backyard." The change of venue allowed Murray to sell 80 tickets at five cents each. Everything worked out fine. Murray made money, the boys fought, and the fight concluded just as Murray's mother, Rebecca, started hollering out the window for the violence in her backyard to cease.

It's 7:22 a.m., and the wheels are up on the Cessna 421 Golden Eagle II. Pezim is on his way north from Vancouver to attend the official opening of his Gold-stream copper mine in Revelstoke. The snowcapped Coast Range is on the left; the Cascades, off to the right. It is glorious scenery. The Cessna is at 11,000 feet and is 262 miles from Revelstoke, where Pezim will switch to a helicopter for the rest of the ride. His mind is on mining: "This is a business of dreams, heartaches, luck. You have to understand that in this business you go broke occasionally."

Still, for Pezim, the thrill is in exploring for buried treasure, not in extracting it from the earth. Ed Yurkowski, president of Tonto Mining, who works on projects with Pezim, says, "The production end is more work than magic, and Murray is in the magic business." As one speaker at the ribbon-cutting ceremony says, Pezim "fires up the faint-hearted." Above all else, Pezim talks. He finds deals, preferably in mining (he is chairman of 63 mining companies), throws in some of his money and then talks brokers and others into raising or providing more cash. It was Pezim who made the Hemlo deal, discovering the largest gold mine in Canada's history (30 million ounces, eventually), near Marathon, Ont. Later, Pezim formed the company that discovered the Eskay Creek gold mine (five million ounces), near Thunder Bay, Ont. "If I don't work another day," Pezim says, "I'll still have $2 million a year coming in. That's enough. Unless, of course, gold does something ridiculous like plunge to $100 an ounce."

Seldom is Pezim cash-poor, and that's important to him. "Never," he says, "walk into a gunfight with a knife." He says he has spent some $23 million on mining exploration at 40 to 50 locations. Pezim's best friend, Vancouver high roller Joe Cohen, who owns Sony of Canada, says that anyone involved with his buddy Murray has to understand that his businesses are "quite risky. I've made a hell of a lot of money with him, and lost a hell of a lot more. You always have the opportunity to make money with Murray, if you can hold on long enough. He's a wonderful man with an open ear and an open heart."

And an open mouth. This is what happens when Pezim encounters Yurkowski at Goldstream.

"I'll put you down for 50 season tickets for the Lions," says Pezim.

"I'll take 10," counters Yurkowski.

"Don't embarrass yourself. Take 20," says Pezim.

"Twenty," says Yurkowski.

That is Pezim at his best. He cajoles and he bullies. He charms and he threatens. Because of his power, people are afraid not to do what he wants. Often it's not exactly clear what Pezim does, but he does a lot of it. If an autopsy is ever performed on him, he will be found to be full of guile. There he is now, handing out hats inscribed DON'T MEZ WITH THE PEZ to kids and praising ordinary-looking women for their world-class beauty. At the ribbon cutting he says, "I used to do circumcisions." He starts telling a joke that has mothers covering the ears of their children, but he skates through with minimal damage to the moral development of tomorrow's leaders. He loves the attention.

And if Pezim is a cheerful loser, he's positively upbeat about mistakes—or misstatements—he has made over the years. For example, he predicted that gold would go over $500 an ounce in 1989. It did not. "I was wrong," says Pezim. "But it will go over $500 this year." It probably won't. In 1983 he said he would be going back into the silver-rich Corn-stock Lode area, where, he said, he would find the biggest gold mine ever in the U.S. He didn't do that, either. He said he would build a resort in Vancouver that would make classy La Costa in Southern California look like a "peanut stand." He didn't.

That's all in the past. Today has been a good day. Pezim understands business in ways that too many others have forgotten. "Don't try to sell the public blue ties," he says, "if they want to wear red ties." Brother Norman says, "Murray is flamboyant, but he's all business. All serious business." Yet such seriousness of purpose can be undermined when, for example, the phone rings and a voice asks, "Does my name ring a bell?"

"Let's see," responds Pezim. "Ding-dong." He hasn't the faintest idea who is calling. Ordinary business executives don't say "ding-dong." The helicopter and then the plane wind through the deep mountain canyons. "I'm a nut case," Pezim repeats.

The Lions worry Pezim. He is having trouble getting fans to warm to the team. It helps having Doug Flutie as the Lion quarterback, but it's obviously not enough. Already, Pezim would like a partner to help bear some of the financial burden. But he says he's not bailing out. "I'll be in sports until I run out of money," he says, "and I'm not running out of money."

Too, he complains that the CFL persists in giving the public blue ties when they want red. Pezim says the CFL should have several teams in the U.S.—places like Portland and Sacramento—to spread the appeal of the league and to help get a profitable TV deal.

Oh, well, he is told, if the Lions are giving him trouble, at least he has the juice deal with Marcus Allen and friends. Pezim turns glum. It turns out that the deal is off. "It didn't check out," he says. "My lead broker, who had told me he was in, backed out when he found out one of the guys who is involved. Turned me down cold. Said he had done business before with this man and he would never, under any circumstances, do it again."

So the deal agreed to in Paradise Valley was scrapped in Vancouver? Oral agreements and handshakes don't count? Pezim is defensive.

"A deal is never a deal until it checks out," he says.

With that, he's back up in the owner's box at B.C. Place, wearing orange lion paws, growling.