In late 1979, the scheduled meeting of Mervyn Hagger and Larry West from Houston with Don Pierson in Eastland concerning the declining fortunes of radio host Herb Jepko from Salt Lake City in Utah, failed to materialize into a successful 'rescue' plan of operation. However, it did evolve into a new and lasting business relationship between the Mervyn Hagger, Larry West and Don Pierson.
However, Don Pierson seized that moment to promote a new entrepreneurial idea of his own. He wanted to create a rival daily newspaper to the existing newspaper in Abilene, Texas. This time Mervyn Hagger shot down Don Pierson's idea, because Mervyn Hagger had prior hands-on experience of going up against the same large newspaper chain that owned the existing newspaper that Don Pierson wanted to compete with.
This is how entrepreneurial media discussions about radio transitioned into discussions about printed publications against the background interests of Hagger and West relating to selling original Victorian art as an investment. That venture was based upon a famous private art gallery situated in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Austrian-American owner of that gallery promoted his work by buying one or two pages each month in the full-sized glossy magazine called 'Architectural Digest'. He also employed a salesman in Texas to sell on commission by bringing buyers to the New Orleans gallery. These were professional people such as lawyers, doctors, dentists and oil men who had cash money to invest in a quiet way. At that time, original Victorian works of art were constantly increasing in value by repeatedly being sold by the three big international auction houses, and thus creating a proven track record of value, as well as proven authenticity.
The Texas salesman associated with the New Orleans gallery was a Jewish graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined-up with two other graduates to form a network of Jewish friends who served as 'bird dogs' providing leads for potential future sales. This salesman also asked Mervyn Hagger to create a marketing plan for him, which incorporated his friends, and it was from this basic request that IFAC was born.
The first part of the plan was to create opportunities for the salesman by using local media to publish interviews in both print and in person on local radio and television shows. The subject was art as an investment. From interested enquiries generated by readers, listeners and viewers, came more sales.
Assisting Mervyn Hagger in the implementation of this business plan was Larry West who was one of three core Jewish friends and graduates from U.T. in Austin. The plan then expanded to include local advertising offering a free seminar for anyone interested in learning how to sell art as an investment on commission.
The next phase involved the salesman and another of his Jewish friends deciding to set up a satellite art gallery in Houston that would display works obtained from the New Orleans gallery. Again, Mervyn Hagger was asked to create this local gallery, and together with Larry West the two of them set about creating a national advertising program based upon their original and localized trial run operations. This idea soon morphed into a more streamlined approach. It became obvious that the expense of maintaining the satellite gallery in Houston was unnecessary, and that space in an office complex would work just as well if the original paintings on the wall of the satellite gallery were replaced by photographs.
Because the business plan involved selling European works of art, a company called European Fine Art Centers (EFAC) was formed. However, the partner who was financing the satellite art gallery was running out of money, so there was little money left to begin a brand-new venture. As it was, to save the sole investor money, Mervyn Hagger was already living on the top floor of the big Houston house that had been transformed by him into the satellite gallery.
The EFAC plan in Houston with one office soon developed into a larger plan based upon the franchise plan of Century 21 real estate offices. They also used photographs to illustrate their properties. So rather than spending time in promoting time consuming seminars for salespeople, it was decided to attract people who wanted to buy a franchise operation that could then hold these sales seminars, and all of this was still tied back to the parent gallery in New Orleans. Taking another lead from the Austrian-American owner of that New Orleans gallery, in which he bought full-sized advertising pages in the glossy magazine called 'Architectural Digest' to attract buyers, it was decided that in addition to the local EFAC offices, their franchisee would also publish a local magazine. Noting at that time the growing trend in publishing quarter-fold magazines which copied the format of 'Reader's Digest', with titles such as 'Golf Digest' and 'Book Digest', Mervyn Hagger decided to create 'Cultural Digest'.
But since the original investor in the Houston gallery and center was almost out of money, the question arose how such an expensive start-up could be achieved. A new business plan was created to resolve that problem and Larry West then brought-in his brother-in-law as an interim investor to make it become a reality.
It was at this moment in time that the totally unrelated involvement with Herb Jepko took place which led to the meeting with Don Pierson who then steered discussions to the subject of publishing a local digest-sized magazine. For details about how the first edition of this local digest was created on such a limited budget, please refer to Chapter 12 - Origins of 'The Trio'. The common factor with Don Pierson, Larry West and Mervyn Hagger was the son of Don Pierson who was an attorney about 100 miles from Eastland in Arlington, Texas.
After moving to Arlington, Texas at the request of Don Pierson, Mervyn Hagger and Larry West transformed EFAC into the International Fine Arts Corporation (IFAC). It was registered in Texas by attorney Grey Pierson on November 14, 1979. Larry's brother-in-law was named as Chairman of the Board, and Don Pierson became President of the new company. Its offices were established in the same suite as Grey Pierson.
The operational trading name on the main door of the office suite was International Fine Arts Press (IFAP). It was one of several suites occupied by different businesses in one building. Upon entering a common area a visitor was greeted by Grey Pierson's secretary at her desk. Grey Pierson had a glass paneled office with its own door to the left of the main door. To the right were two other offices, each with their own doors. Mervyn Hagger moved into the second one which faced a larger common area.
The IFAC/IFAP plan envisioned ten local 'City Digest' magazines in close geographical proximity. They would each contain local information and a common editorial content, and each one would have a limited circulation of ten thousand copies per month. Once the combined circulation of 100,000 copies was available, then the small imitation of 'Architectural Digest' called 'Cultural Digest' would be stitched into the middle of each local 'City Digest'.
After registering IFAC and IFAP, International Fine Arts Society (IFAS) was added to the list to form the identifier of a membership base for 'Cultural Digest' readership relating to art as an investment. Grey Pierson was then instructed to register 'Arlington City Digest' on December 19, 1979, and then 'Irving City Digest' on March 3, 1980, as the first two of ten initial editions. 'Tyer City Digest' became the third edition, and it was followed by 'Wichita Falls City Digest' as the fourth edition of the first ten editions. More than seventeen trading names were also added to the corporate register in Austin, Texas on behalf of IFAC related activities.
However, lurking in the background was the story of two failed business ventures involving Don and Grey Pierson, and they were still pulling the strings that controlled the destinies of Don and Grey Pierson, and they had turned Grey Pierson into a seething young man full of resentment. Neither Hagger nor West were aware of this factor when they entered into business with Don Pierson and his son.
Had they become more curious about the artifacts already on display and attached to a wall of the main common area of the IFAC office suite, they would have found evidence of prior events that still had enormous international implications for Mervyn Hagger and Larry West. In fact, it was years later that the political ramifications of those prior episodes began to come to light. This was long after Larry West had departed from the scene, and Genie Baskir took up an investigative partnership role with Mervyn Hagger.
Genie Baskir had the misfortune of being hired by Grey Pierson while a forced management take-over of IFAC was taking place. At the time Grey Pierson had gained the support of Larry West, and it was at a time when Grey Pierson was in the process of destroying the entire IFAC operation. Don Pierson had brought in new investors related to his family, and consequently Grey Pierson had more influence than Mervyn Hagger over this new money source, while Larry West had more influence than Mervyn Hagger over his own family-related money source.
What exactly Grey Pierson's motivation was is still not clear. What is clear is that their existed a rift of resentment between Grey and Don that related to their prior business ventures. Grey's seething anger came about because in the first of those two prior ventures which both revolved around creating freeports in two Caribbean nations, Don had used attorneys outside his family circle. For the second venture Grey not only got involved, but he became that venture's primary lawyer. He felt trapped, and when Mervyn Hagger first met him, he was in a depressed state and his father was concerned that his son was relying upon prescription medication to stay on top of daily life. The fact that Mervyn Hagger was now another of his father's business activities was not considered as an asset by Grey Pierson, but yet another liability requiring his legal services to assist his father.
So Grey Pierson brought Larry West over to his side and came up with a new plan. First of all, the existing local plan was more trouble than what it was worth, or so he believed due to the legal entanglements it was already generating. It was also not a magazine representing prestige without the addition of the 'Cultural Digest', and so he decided to dump the fine arts plan, after all he had never been to see the New Orleans gallery and turn the local magazine into a glossy stand-alone publication. The problem with his idea was that if did not make business sense. It could not support itself, let alone make a profit, so Grey Pierson's new plan of action collapsed in debt. Then the Pierson investors walked away, and Larry West's original investor was left high and dry with nothing.
Grey Pierson resigned as Registered Agent on October 1, 1981, which left the entire operation without a legal means of existence, and without any form of financial support. However, on his CV that is Online and viewed on March 9, 2022, Grey Pierson claims to have been the "Publisher" of 'City Digest' in 1982 as well as author of an article in that magazine. Neither claim is true or could be true since IFAC had ceased trading under its original structure in Arlington, Texas.
When lawyers representing the copyright, franchise and trademark issues took legal action against IFAC and its primary directors for their unpaid consultancy fees, Grey Pierson used the trust funds supplied by the Pierson investors to pay off the attorneys. Mervyn Hagger was left in the cold and so was Genie Baskir.
The Pierson investors merely disowned their IFAC shares, and Mervyn Hagger looked for a buyer of his own shares in IFAC which then ended up having majority control of a shell company. He sold his own shares to a new owner at a new address in San Marcos, Texas who had nothing to do with Don Pierson, Grey Pierson, Larry West, or Genie Baskir. The new shareholders then filed Notice of their own Registered Agent in the State of Texas on January 20, 1982, and because Grey Pierson did not know the new owners, and because the new owners did not publish any edition of 'City Digest' magazine. Grey Pierson could not have been publisher of 'City Digest' in 1982, and neither could he have been author of any article published by such a magazine that year.
But a mere one month after the new Registered Agent for the company located in San Marcos, Texas, had filed his own Notice with the State of Texas on February 22, 1982, the State of Texas filed its own Notice of Tax Forfeiture, against IFAC, and consequently IFAC disappeared for good.
It was in this turbulent period when Genie Baskir joined the IFAC enterprise, that the strange behavior of Grey Pierson had really began to resonate as outright hostility towards anything concerning his father's entrepreneurial past activities. In turn, Grey Pierson's trail of destruction generated anger in Genie Baskir towards Grey Pierson.
For years afterwards, Grey Pierson continued to pretend as if he was the best friend of Mervyn Hagger. It was a sham, and in the end, it spurred on Mervyn Hagger to join with Genie Baskir to look beyond the surface events at the story of Don Pierson that led from 'Radio London' to 'Radio England' and 'Britain Radio' into the murky waters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the strange life and times of Papa Doc Duvalier, 'President for Life' of Haiti.
Next: The Hidden Entanglement
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