Financier and Philanthropist
Age: 58 | 2013: #17 The mining business has been in the dumpster, but these things are cyclical and Frank Giustra, who made his fortune in oil and mineral exploration, has plenty to keep him busy in the meantime. He has numerous food-related interests; one of them—his olive oil, Domenica Fiore, named for his mother and derived from his olive grove in Umbria—is regularly judged the world’s finest. His magazine startup, Modern Farmer, has won a loyal following and major accolades. He built and sold Lionsgate Entertainment, a Hollywood-type movie studio, here in Vancouver. The studio in which he’s now the major shareholder, Thunderbird—with several recent acquisitions and a Blade Runner sequel, starring Ryan Gosling, in the works—looks nicely positioned to go public. Small wonder the Vancouver International Film Festival recently honoured Giustra with its inaugural Screen Industry Builder Award. And he’s now in the music business as well, having founded Westsonic, a Vancouver recording studio that allows him to indulge his passion for songwriting. When a close friend passed away last year, Giustra realized he didn’t want to end up just another “dead rich guy.” He started doing a “Dear Rich People” column for the Huffington Post, explaining his philanthropic rationale and urging other wealthy people to follow suit. His commitment to helping others, via the high-profile Clinton-Giustra foundation and the heavyweight International Crisis Group, caught the attention of no less a personage than His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who awarded him one of the first-ever Dalai Lama Humanitarian Awards. But it’s the work Giustra does quietly, close to home, that makes him special. What other billionaire has gone on a midnight walkabout in the Downtown Eastside, doing a homeless count, to better understand the issue? And who else not only gives his time and money to the Boys Club Network, which provides direction and role models to at-risk youth, but also personally mentors former gang members? “There are very few people who have that sense of themselves as both a local and a global citizen,” says Louise Arbour, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former CEO of the International Crisis Group. “Frank does.” Giustra can get almost anyone on the phone—he’s pals with business tycoons, movie stars, and world leaders—but his real distinction is that he’s made himself into a pragmatic philanthropist who’s not forgotten his humble Abbotsford roots.
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