Bre-X: Everyone's got a theory
It had all the elements of a great novel: a dramatic rags to riches story, a mysterious suicide (or was it murder?) and a scandalous international fraud. But the Bre-X saga wasn't fiction — much to the chagrin of the many who lost money in 1997. Thousands of investors were duped by the small Calgary-based mining company that falsely claimed to have struck gold in Indonesia.
People also seem to delight in speculating on what happened to de Guzman, the geologist who died after a fall from a helicopter. "I don't think he committed suicide," says one woman, while another interviewee considers the possibility that he was pushed out.
And one smug passerby poses the rhetorical question, "Wasn't it Mark Twain who said 'Gold mines are holes in the ground with liars on top'?"
• Some investors kept their stock and some even continued to buy stock in Bre-X in late April, believing so strongly that there was actually gold and that the stock would rise again.
• The quotation "A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar on top" - which was often quoted during the Bre-X fiasco - is generally attributed to Mark Twain. But according to many Twain scholars, there's no actual record of the well-known American writer saying this.
• To feed the public's desire to learn more about Bre-X, there was a flurry of books released on the topic in 1997 and 1998. These included:
• Bre-X: The Inside Story by Diane Francis
• Fever: The Dark Mystery of the Bre-X Gold Rush by Jennifer Wells
• Fool's Gold: The Making of a Global Market Fraud by Brian Hutchinson
• The Bre-X Fraud by Andrew Willis and Douglas Goold
• Some entrepreneurs tried to use the Bre-X fiasco to make some money on novelty gifts. A couple of entrepreneurs in Calgary put together a gag gift called Bre-X-It, a kit to help people tamper with their own gold samples. And some Toronto entrepreneurs were selling T-shirts on the Internet, featuring slogans like "I Survived Bre-X" and cartoon pictures of de Guzman falling out of the helicopter.
• The idea that Bre-X should be made into a movie was brought up frequently, and a number of deals for film rights were made, including one by Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis Communications. By 2004, however, no feature film has been made yet.
Broadcast Date: April 6, 1997
Host: Robert Scully
Producer: Brenda Hanna
Last updated: April 18, 2013
Page consulted on March 7, 2014
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