"Good to see you, Mr. Pezim."
"Nice to have you back, Mr. Pezim."
"Can I do anything for you now, Mr. Pezim?"
A waitress brings him a cup of coffee. He gives her a $100 tip.
"I'm so good at gambling," he says, "that they ought to bar me from the casinos." That said, he loses $18,900 at the Sands Hotel crap tables in 28 minutes. He shrugs. Walks outside. Gets into his waiting limo and heads back to the Mirage. Immediately on arrival, he wins $16,500. He drinks a cup of coffee, wins another $8,800 and ultimately finishes the day $9,000 up.
"When I'm around, people know there is gonna be action," he says. "That's why everybody loves me. I'm a maker of dreams. I'm a motivator. I show others that all things are possible. And even if I lose money, I have a lot of laughs. I don't do bad for a Jew from Toronto."
Pezim says he has won as much as $300,000 and lost as much as $100,000 in a single visit to Las Vegas. He has lost so much money in his life and made so many bad deals that he is inured to it. Yet talking about his losses can propel him into gales of laughter. For his bar mitzvah, his family didn't have much money and could afford only a little bit of ice cream. Murray didn't get any. He vowed then that someday he would have all the ice cream he wanted. That was how it came to pass, in 1985, that he bought the rights to Swensen's 46 ice cream stores in Canada and promptly lost nearly $4 million. "It really bombed," he says.
Then there was Spartan Air Services, the Toronto-based helicopter company. Pezim paid $1 for it in 1959. The firm had 42 helicopters and 26 fixed-wing craft. He lost almost $1.5 million in two years. Trying to make the company fly, Pezim opened a division in Argentina and made, he says, "a fortune"—except that ultimately he could get none of the aircraft or the money out of the country. He lost all of both.
On the other hand, in the '50s, Pezim bought 100,000 shares of Denison Mines at 40¢ a share. A year later, he sold each share for $17. In 1968, looking for sulfur in the foothills of the Alberta Rockies, he inadvertently stumbled onto the biggest natural-gas field ever found in Canada. Almost overnight, stock in Pezim's Stampede Oil went from 45¢ a share to $27. Pezim's haul was $12.6 million. "You develop a reputation," he explains, "then the rest comes to you. That, of course, doesn't mean some people wouldn't want to see me dead." It's the same old story: Winners love him, losers hate him.
Pezim generally goes to Vegas for the fights. "I love the boxing scum," he says with admiration. "They are the worst. [Don] King, [Bob] Arum, they're all bums. They are all crap. I love 'em." He's in town for the first Tyson-Ruddock fight, in March. He has met a woman named Janet, so he promptly calls Tammy, who is in Arizona.