Beverley GiesbrechtBeverley Giesbrecht

I first met Bev in 1988, when Peter Ladner hired her to market Vancouver Business Report (now Business In Vancouver). Her office was down the hall from mine, where I was a database consultant. We both worked late at night, and I'd frequently meet her in the hallway.

She was a tiny woman who generally wore red skirts and high heels to work. At night it was always blue jeans and cowboy boots. But she had an imposing voice, and she didn't suffer fools.

Shortly after we met, Bev got into a shareholder tussle with VBR (now BIV) and her partnership with Peter ended. My jaw dropped at her tenacity in this dispute. This was not a woman you'd cross lightly. Her memory was phenomenal. In any argument with me she could bring up stuff I had long forgotten, and spear me with it.

Beverley GiesbrechtBeverley Giesbrecht

Above all, Bev was a natural leader who could sell an idea. In the early 1990s we launched a four-colour glossy magazine on BC technology (TREK Magazine). We had little money to finance the first issue, so Bev asked her advertisers to pay in advance, and they did. Eventually she got all the major funding agencies to support TREK, and invited some key technology players to her Editorial Board. This was great fun. Her post-production parties at the Hyatt were legendary. Bev would reign supreme at these events, surrounded by technology executives scrambling for her attention. Bev knew she appealed to men, and wasn't shy about promoting her advantage. Whenever we had meetings in someone's conference room, she'd arrive with leather driving gloves clutching a basket of keys. Before sitting down she'd drop them on the table and slowly remove her gloves, to get everybody's attention.

But we had our moments where we weren't speaking. 9/11 was one of them.

She was marketing her new web package for Boeing vendors at a Seattle trade show when the towers were hit. The conference ended abruptly and Bev returned home, losing her investment.

When we later reconnected, Bev had become fascinated by the Middle East. She built a website to market jihadi-supplied videos, and even became a Muslim herself. I was stunned by this stuff.

She explained to me that her site offered an alternative view of the Middle East, supported by the sale of videos that you wouldn't see on CNN. Fair enough, but what about the pro-Taliban slant to her site? She replied that the insurgents would only send her videos if they felt her site supported them. 

Beverley GiesbrechtBeverley Giesbrecht

Bev tried hard to be editorially independent, and she quietly put a disclaimer on the site that put distance between herself and the writers. That was her message to Western readers — that she was a journalist. The other side had other ideas, of course, and she tried hard to avoid ruffling feathers. Her site (jihadunspun.com) gained a lot of followers, especially in the U.K. and Malaysia. When the U.S. State Department labeled her web page as one of the three top sites for misinformation about the Middle East, she was ecstatic. It gave her credibility with suppliers and writers, and she could sell more product.

In support of her rising popularity, Bev travelled to Malaysia, Egypt and the U.K. to meet influential players in the Muslim community. In early 2008 she went to Pakistan with Phil Reese (a London-based journalist) to produce a new documentary. It quickly got dangerous, and Phil left. But Bev stayed, and no amount of pleading could change her mind.

When she was kidnapped on November 11, 2008, my heart sank. I knew she was not a healthy woman.

The first phone call came four weeks later. She was crying on the phone, while a bunch of men were laughing in the background. Their demands were outrageous, and it was impossible to negotiate with them. Then came the videos on TV. At first I didn't recognize her. She had aged 30 years, and looked utterly dejected. This was not the Bev I knew. She used to be a warrior in the news business, but now I was looking at a beaten puppy.

My last phone call with her happened in August 2009. I was sitting in an RCMP van, trying to calm her down. Something told me this would be my last call, so I ended it by blurting out "I love you, Bev", something I had never said to her before.

I never heard from her again. I'll miss you forever, Bev. You were my buddy.

Written by business partner and friend, Glen Cooper

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