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Teddy bear hippie' is unlikely multimillionaire
5. Teddy bear hippie' is unlikely multimillionaire
Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
To former Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Jim Green, John Lefebvre seemed
like a "teddy-bear hippie, a sweetheart kind of guy."
James Hoggan, president of a prominent Vancouver public relations firm,
described him as "extremely generous" and "one of the friendliest people
you'd ever want to meet."
Friends said his passions were giving away money from his huge fortune to
worthy causes like the work of the Dalai Lama.
They said their long-haired, shambling friend was passionate about playing
his guitar, and noted the front room of his Saltspring Island house features
black-and-white photos of his baby-boomer generation's heroes: Neil Young,
John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is less positive about Lefebvre.
On Tuesday, agents arrested him in connection with his role in creating and
operating NETeller, one of the world's largest online money transfer
companies for gamblers.
The Internet has created many unlikely instant multimillionaires, but few as
improbable as Lefebvre, a 55-year-old Calgary-raised lawyer who divides his
time between Saltspring Island and Malibu, Calif.
Just over a decade ago, Lefebvre quit his Calgary law practice to busk in
that city's transit stations, living off the change that landed in his
A few years later, it was Lefebvre who was handing out money: Millions of
dollars for projects promoting environmental protection, social justice, the
arts and a variety of causes.
"There's a lot of irony in that. A lot of irony and I don't think it was
lost on him," said Hoggan, president of Hoggan and Associates, referring to
his friend's amazing shift from busker to philanthropist.
"He's generous in a very impressive way. He has a generosity for people who
are marginalized and for issues that are marginalized."
Lefebvre donated $170,000 to the centre-left Vision Vancouver's campaign in
the 2005 municipal election.
Lefebvre said at the time he donated the money, believed to be a record
amount, because he wanted to help Vision's Jim Green in his bid for the
Lefebvre donated $1.2 million in 2005 to the fine arts faculty of his alma
mater, the University of Calgary.
He has provided funding for the David Suzuki Foundation, the Dalai Lama's
new Centre for Peace and Education in Vancouver and has backed the West
Virginia-based Future Generation's campaign to protect the ecology of the
Four Great Rivers section of Tibet.
Lefebvre also gave more than $300,000 to help Hoggan establish a website
devoted to exposing the links between fossil-fuel companies, critics of
climate change science and the public relations industry.
Hoggan said he became dismayed a few years back that a few public relations
firms were helping a small number of skeptics undermine the scientific
consensus that humans are changing the climate by burning fossil fuels.
He talked to Lefebvre about the need to debunk misinformation about climate
change and received a huge donation to start and operate a website called
Articles in this Issue:
- Tibetan leader Dalai Lama opposes death by hanging
- Leading Polish paper acknowledge Tibetan representative's visit
- Exiled Tibetans protest as India, China try to resolve border dispute
- Successor not the real issue but Tibet, says Dalai Lama
- Teddy bear hippie' is unlikely multimillionaire
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