ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ADDED FOLLOWING ONLINE PUBLICATION
The actual origins of 'The Trio' can be dated back to November 1, 1979, and the morphing of a project to sell paintings qualifying as fine arts, via a franchised magazine. The company is called International Fine Arts Corporation (IFAC) and the seeds of its creation are to be found in a Houston art gallery which had been started by two graduates of the University of Texas in Austin (UTA). Their gallery was an offshoot of the New Orleans facility owned by the previously described Austrian.
Only one of these two did the actual selling of these original paintings as an investment to buyers who were mainly professional people such as lawyers and dentists. The other partner was the person who funded the gallery. The salesman partner had a friend who went by the name of Larry West, and he was also a graduate of UTA. All three were members of a Jewish fraternity, but their religious beliefs could best be described as agnostic, and in one instance as a "self-hating Jew". In fact, his views on life tilted towards an admiration of Adolf Hitler and were fed by a steady diet of cocaine.
From this gallery came a spin-off called 'Eurodollar Fine Art Center' (EFAC) with the name stemming from the paintings which were mainly of European Victorian origin, and the market for sales mainly being Texas professionals. The owners closed their gallery and went with a new business model to create sales centers modeled after 'Century 21' real estate sales offices that displayed homes for sale using framed photographs and photographic slides. The Internet was something still in the future for business activity.
A pilot 'EFAC' center was opened in Houston, and it advertised primarily in small community magazines of a digest size. At that time several publications aimed at book readers and other specialized interests had begun to appear, all following the format of 'Reader's Digest'. The friend of the sales partner in the original gallery venture, also had an investing friend, who had a Jewish family connectivity. But again, these four individuals were more akin to English people identifying themselves as 'C of E' (Church of England), but who never attended a church except on very rare occasions in order to claim some form of religious connectivity, and one of the four, when asked, was openly hostile to the Jewish community that his parents had brought him into by birth.
This evolving enterprise selling fine art all grew out of the New Orleans gallery which was housed in a building open only by invitation, and mainly to Texas "good ol' boys" who had cash to spend and culture to buy with it. At the top of this multi-story building in the French Quarter was a private room equipped with a huge circular bed; a well-stocked bar, meals brought in from the best local restaurants that New Orleans had to offer, and of course gorgeous young women (plural) on tap. All of this was made possible courtesy of the gallery owner, and all of the paintings on display came with documentation using provenance created by one of the big international auction houses in order to prove the authenticity of the artwork on sale.
In that way, once the buyer arrived in New Orleans for a weekend, they could stay in the gallery in order to select and admire their purchases, with no reason to want to step outside until it was time to go home. Downstairs a shipping department took care of wrapping the paintings in insulation material, and the customer's purchases were then placed in wooden crates for immediate delivery by limousine which took both the buyer and their paintings to the airport where they boarded their own private aircraft.
When a split came within the original two Houston gallery owners, and main salesman turned to his friend from UTA named Larry West, and via Houston media connections, they recruited Hagger to assist with the promotion of the EFAC model. For new financial backing Larry West brought in one his own family members connected by marriage to his sister. It was this new investor who provided the initial funding which also paid for the tickets that made it possible for Herb Jepko to fly from Salt Lake City in order to meet Don Pierson in Dallas.
Having his own family-induced connection to the world of art, primary due to his mother, as well as an interest in broadcasting and publishing that was primarily due to his father, Hagger formed a working partnership with Larry West that grew out of EFAC. The reason for explaining all of this in detail is to contrast it with the sweeping claims made by self-promoting individuals such as Ronan O'Rahilly. He and others have invented yesterdays that never happened, and therefore they cannot be documented.
On the other hand, this account has provenance. It is not a story funded or directed by a philanthropist or institution with a clear cut and manipulative end result that they want to achieve. This is a story created by serendipity. But it is a true story, and that is why it is being told primarily through the lives of the three people who have made it part of their life work to find the answers to questions that others have clearly not wanted others to know.
Emerging from the aftermath of the Herb Jepko episode, and then the proposal by Don Pierson to start a rival newspaper in Abilene, Texas, came the birth of an extension of the EFAC model. It emerged as International Fine Arts Corporation (IFAC), with Don Pierson as Chairman. This revised plan involved just as Larry West's own source of funding was drying up, and it was before Don Pierson committed himself to this new venture.
On paper, the plan looked okay, but without adequate funding there was no way to put it into action, unless some form of financial rationalization immediately took place. But at this stage, it was only Larry West with his original family-backer, plus Hagger, who wanted this new idea to work. Unknown to those three at the time, Don Pierson and his son Grey were trying to recover from almost ten years of work that climaxed in the toppling of a foreign government with British connections and resulted in failure for their business activities.
Unrelated, those ten years of Pierson nightmare had begun just as Hagger was writing his letter addressed to 'Don Pearson' (sic) in Eastland, Texas, and Pierson's second decade of trouble was about to grow out of his first decade of trouble involving the offshore stations 'Radio London'; 'Radio England', and 'Britain Radio'. So, when Herb Jepko showed up in Dallas, and Don Pierson treated their meeting with casual interest while still entertaining a young boy who had recently lost his father in the Vietnam War, Herb Jepko was not impressed by Don Pierson.
While Don had nothing to lose, Jepko had everything to gain. But what neither man knew, and what Larry West and Mervyn Hagger did not know, is that Pierson was in a similar situation to Jepko, and so both of them were looking to each other thinking that the other person could be their own financial savior. Pierson had other resources and so in that way he was in a stronger financial position than Jepko who became more annoyed by the minute after flying from Salt Lake City to meet Don Pierson.
Jepko had been led to believe by Larry West, but and primarily by Mervyn Hagger, that Pierson was one person who could rescue Herb Jepko's broadcasting career, because Jepko had been 'sold' the background story regarding Pierson's creation of three offshore broadcasting stations which in turn had resulted in a major shake-up of the BBC.
But once Jepko arrived and immediately discovered that he was more an object of curiosity to Pierson, it took no time at all for Jepko's mood to change from optimism to sheer pessimism once Don Pierson began to suggest that Jepko should move his home to Dallas in order to begin his life anew, all on a chance speculation that Pierson could pull a rabbit out of his hat, or a new flagship station and investor into a new business relationship with Jepko. This was to become one of many pointers to the fact that the story of British offshore broadcasting from 1964 to 1967 has never been told before by anyone, because for Pierson, August 14, 1967, was merely a new chapter in his involvement with that ship called 'Olga Patricia'.
So against that backdrop where no one was putting their cards on the table, the pre-birth of the IFAC venture that was being outlined to Pierson was all 'hot air'. There was no financial substance to make it work, and the financial backing that did exist was limited and fast running out. There was only one solution and that was to make it work by putting the plan into action using the means that were still available.
On November 1, 1979, Don Pierson drove Larry West and Mervyn Hagger to see his son Grey in Arlington, Texas, and on November 14, 1979, Grey Pierson became the Registered Agent for the International Fine Arts Corporation with Larry's brother-in-law as Chairman and Don Pierson as President. The address of IFAC was listed as the law office of Grey Pierson at 725 East Lamar Boulevard, Arlington, Texas 76011. The quid-pro-quo as far as Don was concerned, was not a new magazine venture, but rescuing his son from the depression he had entered into as a result of the back-to-back Freeport ventures that father and son had been engaged in. That came about after Don was told to sell the 'Olga Patricia' on behalf of the radio ship's investors.
The plan now being proposed was for Don Pierson to become nominal chairman of IFAC, and for Hagger to share office space with Grey Pierson. In that way Grey's attention could be redirected towards something new and positive, and Hagger could start the magazine. Hagger would have to find his own accommodation, which he did by renting a room in a motel within walking distance of the office.
But because financing was still through Larry West's in-law and because that capital was being drained very quickly, Mervyn Hagger opted to sleep on a couch in Grey's law office and use the remaining funds to create a mock-up of the magazine using the office copier. Hagger's plan was to then pre-sell its advertising space by reverse marketing.
Space was marked out for both features and adverting, and explanatory notes were typed up using an IBM 'Selectric' typewriter. Those were the days before widespread use of computers and desktop publishing. With literature in hand which had been gleaned from the 'Yellow Pages' telephone directory, Hagger then set off to visit the list of categories that named potential advertisers. His method was to apply psychological pressure based upon the spiel that "if you don't take this spot right now, your competitor will, and because I am only looking for one business of a kind, if your competitor takes this space that is now under offer to you, it will not be possible for me to offer it to you in the future." Hagger's plan to only accept one-of-a-kind advertising, had the effect of reverse selling where the potential buyer might be told that they could not have it.
With that in mind and a dummy issue created on the office copier to create a dummy issue, Hagger set off in a used loaner car provided by Grey Pierson from his father's collection of vehicles. Hagger's first call was to the largest bank in Arlington where he explained his business plan to a Vice President of that financial institution. Stressing that he would only return to cash-in on the sales contract that executive signed on behalf of the bank, once advertising space in the entire magazine had been pre-sold, he walked away with a full-page ad in color on the inside front cover.
Because the ultimate plan was to create several editions of this magazine which could be sold to independent publishers as franchises, and because this business model was based upon the Century 21 real estate franchise model, Hagger's next stop was to visit and sell the local Century 21 franchise and offer them the inside back cover. For enticement Hagger was able to use the bank Vice President's contract as proof of intent and endorsement of the business plan.
With the first edition pre-sold, and a magazine distributor lined-up to place the magazine on store shelves, it was time to promote the next edition in line, and so Hagger targeted a neighboring city, before printing the first edition. Making personal visits and running help wanted advertising in the 'Fort Worth Star Telegram' daily newspaper, the first franchisee soon appeared prior to publication, and that person took over both of the editions that Hagger had worked on creating. Now Grey Pierson became involved as the new IFAC company attorney, and the first franchisee also moved into the same law office space.
Prior to printing and distribution of the first two local editions, a spin-off subsidiary to IFAC called International Fine Arts Press (IFAP) was formed. At that time a number of full-size community magazines were being launched in Houston and Dallas, but this new operation utilized a digest page size; a full color glossy cover with the identifying logo of 'City Digest'. While the full-page size magazines concentrated upon large cities such as Houston and Dallas, 'City Digest' concentrated upon smaller communities which also carried the identifying name of each community within the masthead logo. The local franchisee would sell the advertising and supply the editorial copy to go in each local edition, and each edition would have a monthly print run of 10,000 copies.
The IFAP business plan for 'City Digest' was to first create a base of ten franchises amounting to a total circulation of 100,000 copies within adjoining communities, and then stitch a 'museum quality', full color digest into the middle of each local edition. This would be a single print run with both the editorial and advertising sold by the parent IFAC company. Its primary advertising focus would be on art as an investment and related products and services that its readership could afford to buy.
On March 1, 1980, the first two local editions of 'City Digest' went on sale from Arlington and Irving store shelves, but almost immediately the project ran into a legal roadblock that had not been addressed by Grey Pierson. The first franchisee had asked Grey to incorporate his own company, but he had not carried through with his request, and so he published his two editions of 'City Digest', not in the name of an incorporated company, but as an individual using the same name that he intended to use as a registered company.
It quickly became apparent that this individual did not want to abide by the franchise agreement, which was itself in a formulative stage, and instead, he decided to take the two publications which were primarily created by Hagger and operate as a totally independent business in order to avoid the franchise fee. This person clearly believed that he had the upper hand and took IFAP to court in order to sever the business relationship. It was then that Grey Pierson performed an outstanding legal maneuver.
When the franchisee took his seat on the witness stand, he let go with a blast of venom. Once finished Grey merely asked him if he had anything further to add. The franchisee was baffled. So was Hagger who witnessed this charade. Hagger was annoyed and told Grey Pierson to put a stop to this nonsense, but Grey merely indicated to Hagger that he should remain quiet, and so he did. Grey Pierson then asked the franchisee once again if he had anything further to add, and he received "No" for an answer.
The next step was quite amazing.
Grey asked the Judge if both he and his opposing counsel could approach the Bench. The Judge said, "Step forward" and then Grey pointed out to both the Judge and the other lawyer that the Plaintiff and franchisee had no legal standing to bring this action in court. We will refer to this person as 'John Doe'.
He had intended to incorporate a publishing company called 'John Doe, Inc.', but it had not been incorporated because he had previously approached Grey Pierson to take care of the legal paperwork. However, he had not paid Grey Pierson and consequently the company had not been registered with the State of Texas. However, 'John Doe' sued IFAP in the name of 'John Doe, Inc.' which did not exist under Texas law.
Naturally the other party fumed when Grey Pierson pointed out that under law, a human person such as 'John Doe' and an artificial person (or company), in this case called 'John Doe, Inc.', were two different entities in the eyes of the law. Consequently, the Judge had no choice but to dismiss the case in favor of IFAP all because of those three letters 'Inc.'
However, this action in court did bring 'City Digest' to a grinding halt for a brief moment in time, and the 'Fort Worth Star Telegram' which on March 26, 1980, covered the launch, now covered this and problems arising from a dispute over a trademark in their edition of February 25, 1981. Overall, these unwanted headaches did not stall the magazine and advertising was purchase in several newspapers to sell franchises in more areas and to recruit freelance feature writers.
One of those newspapers was the 'Tyler Morning Telegraph'. An IFAP advertisement for 'City Digest' which had been placed in that newspaper caught the attention of Don Pierson's relatives. They were a father and son team who owned a retail business in Tyler, a city known as the 'Rose Capital' of East Texas.
Don Pierson was now Chairman of IFAC, and his relatives not only took over control of the entire IFAP side of the business, but they also took on a franchise for Tyler. Meanwhile these want ads were also appearing as far afield as Shreveport, Louisiana and it appeared that the venture was learning by its mistakes; gaining new investors who then followed Don's relatives and wanted to own a part of the part operation.
Clearly this was when the original operation had outgrown its initial business plan. Hagger was now flying around Texas visiting new franchisees, and the sales side was handed to his colleague Larry West, while the editorial side was hived off into another building, and that is when Genie Baskir applied for the job of Managing Editor and became the second member of 'The Trio'.