Robert Friedland has a past ripe with outrageous and spectacular claims.
Friedland is worth over $2 billion and has had some interesting (mis)adventures: He was arrested at age 19 for selling 8,000 tablets to an undercover cop, he lived in a commune with Steve Jobs, was the center figure in two massive cyanide spill scandals and discovered what Labrador’s Voisey Bay coined “the richest nickel, copper and cobalt deposit on the planet.”
After serving a two year sentence following the drug bust, Friedland enrolled at Reed College in Portland where, at 21, he was elected as student body president.
There, in a chance encounter, Friedland met and befriended Steve Jobs, when the tech pioneer tried to sell him his IBM typewriter. The two bonded over their youthful passion of Eastern spirituality and ended up living together in a commune on an apple orchard owned by Friendland’s wealthy uncle. (Speculation is that the orchard was the genesis of the Apple company name.)
In 1993, Friedland earned himself the nickname ‘Toxic Bob’ when his company, Galactic Resources, spilled cyanide into the Alamosa River. A New York Times article outlined the effects stating that the spill killed all of the flora and fauna in a 17-mile stretch down the river.
Two years later another one of Friedland’s companies, South American Goldfields, spilled 3.2 billion litres of cyanide-laced tailings into Guyana’s river system – to date no reparations have been paid to the country.
In 1996 Friedland would be catapulted into the ranks of the über-rich when he sold the nickel-rich property at Voisey Bay to Inco for $3.1 billion.
Poised for another major success, this time in Mongolia, Friedland was ousted from his Ivanhoe Mines in April of this year after Rio Tinto took control of the Vancouver-based company.
Friedland needed fresh funding for the $10 billion-plus project he had been advancing for the better part of the last decade and was forced to hand over Oyu Tolgoi to Rio only six months before scheduled completion of the copper-gold-silver mine.
Now, worlds away from peddling LSD to cops, Friedland, 62, sits at #546 on Forbes Billionaires list. From here, no one is really sure what his next move is; though, from apple orchard to billionaire, it is evident that he could end up anywhere and in anything.