Friday, November 30, 2012

Gustav Konstantin von Alvensleben

Born into German nobility, the leisure-loving von Alvensleben arrived in Vancouver in 1904 virtually penniless.

Von Alvensleben eventually set up shop on Granville under the name Alvensleben Finance and General Investment Co. He was a mysterious and flamboyant addition to a then sleepy Vancouver Stock Exchange when he bought one of the first seats on the fledgling exchange. Rumoured to be Kaiser Wilhelm’s man in North America, he turned his European charm into a flood of money from financiers in both Vancouver and Europe

Von Alvensleben’s first promotion was a company drilling for oil in the Athabasca tar sands, and he was soon backing timber, fishing and coal mining companies. With that impeccable promoter's timing, he made a fortune in Vancouver between 1908 and 1912.
1913 brought recession to Vancouver, and falling housing prices drove the highly leveraged tycoon overseas to raise more money. World War I broke out during one such trip to Europe, and von Alvensleben’s German connection worked against him. His Canadian properties were seized by the Custodian of Enemy Property.

Von Alvensleben later returned to B.C. to mine a small placer deposit in the north, but his fortune was gone. “We were always a very poor family,” Alvo’s son said of the family’s later years in the U.S.