Almost four years after his death, the $20 million estate of Vancouver businessman Randy Thiemer has finally been wrapped up in court.
Thiemer started a company named Can Win, which resold Canadian lottery tickets to foreigners.
He got the idea after seeing an ad in a Vancouver newspaper offering Irish Sweepstakes tickets.
"It started at his kitchen table and progressed to a $100-million-a-year business," recalled Vito Nardulli, who worked for almost 25 years for Thiemer and was former vice-president of operations of the company, C-W Agencies.
In the company's early days, Vancouver police officers who showed up at Can Win's offices, then located at 319 West Pender, found a bag of cash they were planning to seize.
"The bag was just sitting there while police were looking around," recalled Nardulli.
Thiemer whispered something to his business partner at the time, Ray Gin-netti, who quickly left the office, he said.
"Randy opened the window and dropped the bag out the window, and Ginnetti was waiting on the street below and caught it," Nardulli recalled.
"Back when I started, there were only four employees," he added.
C-W Agencies now employs about 250 people and is almost across the street from the police station on Cam-bie Street.
The operation also has a related company in Europe called the European Lottery Guild.
Nardulli eventually became vice-president of operations and was making $150,000 a year but was fired in 2009 after Thiemer's death.
He filed a wrongful dismissal suit, which remains unresolved; he is seeking more than $1 million, including profit sharing he claims he is owed.
Thiemer, who died Aug. 7, 2008, founded the company in 1981. He had bought out his former business partner, Ginnetti, for $5 million in 1989.
Ginnetti, a former Vancouver stock-broker who was friends with some Hells Angels members, was shot to death in 1990.
The man who arranged the $30,000 contract killing, a former Hells Angels enforcer named Roger Daggitt, was shot three times in the head in 1992 while having a beer in the Turf Hotel in Surrey.
A Montreal hitman was later convicted of Daggitt's murder.
"Randy was brilliant," Nardulli said. "He was also a workaholic. Sometimes he worked up to 20 hours a day."
He said the company had a few set-backs, including a decision by the B.C. government in 1993 that C-W Agencies and other lottery ticket resellers couldn't buy and sell B.C. lottery tickets.
"We stopped selling Canadian tickets altogether," Nardulli said. "The operation shifted to Europe."
The company opened offices in Lon-don, Liverpool and Amsterdam, which still exist today.
Another setback was a $500,000 fine imposed in 1999 by a U.S. Federal Court.
C-W Agencies pleaded guilty during the court proceedings in Seattle and Thiemer agreed to never again market lottery products to U.S. residents, and not participate for five years in any kind of marketing aimed at Americans through the mail or Internet.
"We stopped selling to Americans after that," Nardulli said.
C-W Agencies had about 3.5 million customers when he left the company.
Nardulli said the operations are a lot more automated now than the early days, when Thiemer employed people to stuff tickets in envelopes and get them to the post office and mailed before each lottery draw.
"Some days you would get 1,000 pieces of mail, but some days it was 10,000," Nardulli recalled. "He believed in a 24-hour turnaround."
He recalled Thiemer led the jet-set lifestyle and had a beautiful home in Shaughnessy, which was decorated with $100,000 Persian rugs, Japanese art and Asian jade.
Thiemer spent his final years travel-ling the world looking for a liver replacement, which never came.
He tried the U.S., then a private clinic in London, England, where he spent a year waiting. "He had a 5,000-square-foot apartment at Regent's Park," that cost about $35,000 a week.
Thiemer eventually got fed up waiting and returned home to Vancouver. A replacement liver was eventually found in Monterrey, Mexico for $1 million.
But by the time Thiemer flew to Mexico, he wasn't in good enough shape to survive the operation, his friend recalled. Thiemer died in Mexico.
The court judgment sorted out the complexities of Thiemer's bequests, which divided his $20-million estate into 16 parts and left a portion to his parents, Phil and Arlene Thiemer; his brother, Reid Phillip Thiemer; his sister, Denny Shelley Byers; his niece and three nephews.
He left $500,00 to his accountant, Brian Gardiner, and also bequeathed money to Doctors Without Borders.
The rest of his estate was left in a spousal trust to his common-law wife, Gigi Christine Schlappner, with the instruction to "maintain Christie according to her station in life and in the style to which she has been accustomed ..."
Thanks to lottoball for the tip.