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"We have a saying," Jimmy Pattison explains. "We never start late but sometimes we start early."

The 75-year-old tabbed recently by Forbes as the world's 94th-wealthiest man isn't indulging in a rare instance of abstract philosophizing. Ever since his days as a car salesman, Pattison has been at war with the tardy. Hard reality became cherished myth after his 1987 autobiography, Jimmy, recounted the day a late-arriving employee fired up a chain saw and let himself in a locked meeting-room door to the astonishment of all but the boss himself, who'd staged the whole thing as a lesson.

Today, no power tools are needed. It's Feb. 10 and over the next two weeks, senior executives from across the Jim Pattison Group will be in Vancouver for quarterly meetings. They come from almost two dozen companies, which are organized in eight divisions (see "It's Jimmy's World," opposite). Pattison's deal with division managers is typically straightforward. He will virtually ignore their existence for 361 days of the year. In return, they will show up every three months with detailed presentations that pinpoint the performance of every aspect of their operations. Ideally the presentations will be slick and entertaining, perhaps sprinkled with video clips and advanced-user PowerPoint features. Less optionally, they will portray excellent results.

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There will be a lot of excellent results this time around. Pattison's privately owned company reveals only two numbers: total assets and total revenue. In 2003, the latter showed no increase from 2002's $5.5 billion, but Pattison flatly calls it "the best year ever." Only a 21% rise in the value of the Canadian dollar prevented him from announcing the near double-digit percentage annual growth he's been pulling off regularly for more than 40 years. Of course, the same currency phenomenon worked in reverse in the Forbes ranking, which is expressed in American dollars. In that calculation, Pattison jumped from $2.2 billion to $4.6 billion, leapfrogging American paupers like Charles Schwab in the process. Is the Forbes figure accurate? Pattison is as patient as he can be. "We never comment on those numbers," he says. "Why would we give our competitors an advantage?"

This morning's presentation is by the auto group. It's an 8 o'clock meeting, so the executives in charge of Pattison's dealerships, lease operations and auto malls know to start trickling in at 6:15, a half-hour behind Pattison and his secretary of 41 years, Maureen Chant. As expected, the meeting begins at 7.

Each quarterly has a distinct function. In May, head office looks at an updated forecast of what the year in progress will bring. August affords some time for blue-skying and includes a social aspect. November is when budgets are finalized for the year to come. And February's round, the only one convened at head office rather than on the divisions' home turfs, concentrates on the year just passed. Always the reports proceed in a prescribed manner, with special attention paid to precise metrics that allow the corporate office to make easy comparisons across the division and over time. When the meetings have wrapped up, Pattison will voluntarily put his own hide on the line before a gathering of his advisory board of directors--corporate chieftains from across the continent (such as Fairmont Hotels CEO Bill Fatt and Edward Meyer, CEO of Grey Advertising in New York) whose role is to provide the chairman, managing director and chief executive himself with a little guidance.

Another one of Pattison's sayings is that it's always fun if you're making money, and a veteran of many quarterlies attests that the atmosphere can be very light-hearted when times are good. And excruciatingly intense when they are not. Today it's the former. The auto group's sales are up handily, quality indexes remain high, market share has been gained, and the most magic number of all, return on invested capital, resides at a lofty height. Accordingly, the executives have spiced up their presentations with video clips of skiers: They plunge down cliff over cliff, either gracefully or not, depending on the situation back at the lot. When the division guys have had their fun, and their head office equivalents have offered congratulations and brief comments, it is Pattison's turn. But first he grants a 15-minute break. Nine minutes later he is back at the table, wondering where everyone is.

Pattison's half-hour address has two rationales. The first is to draw attention to the big picture--things like the eclipse of the Big Three and the potential of China--that managers had better be thinking about if they aren't already. The second is to underline his belief in the importance of people. During the presentations, he asked virtually every presenter if there were any problems "on the people side." Now he inquires about several employees who have caught his eye or who have been weathering personal difficulties. He concludes his benediction with a query: "Have we at corporate office provided the support you need to do your job?"

As ever, the response is in the affirmative. Within minutes, the auto group executives have departed. So long to head office until the next quarterly.

Jimmy Pattison holds a prominent place in the popular imagination of Canada's West Coast. To some he is a Protestant Duddy Kravitz, pulled up by his own bootstraps from humble east-end Vancouver beginnings and still prone to vivid haberdashery. (The ascent is recognized abroad too; on April 16, Pattison will be in Washington, D.C., to receive the Horatio Alger Award, previously bestowed on Billy Graham and Oprah Winfrey.) To others, he is the deal-spinning charmer who will have you singing his praises even as he flips the business he so slyly relieved you of. More recently, he's come to be seen as an admirable, if slightly eccentric, civic patriarch: the face of Expo 86; the brave and loyal champion of an embattled region in global corporate wars; the quiet benefactor behind some of British Columbia's most important charities and civic projects. Very few see Pattison as one of the great capitalist innovators of the era, a man who has found a way to efficiently manage and continually grow his many-splendoured conglomerate during an era when everyone else has abandoned diversified companies as unworkable. Yet in 2004, it is probably the latter trait that best describes him.

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At the moment, the Pattison magic is most apparent in the slated March 31 merger of forestry giants Canfor and Slocan. Pattison won't talk about the role he played, but he has been credited with helping to engineer the deal. The Pattison Group's Great Pacific Capital Corp. was the largest single shareholder in both companies, with at least 20% of each, and Pattison has been sitting on the Canfor board since April, 2003, after stepping down as a Slocan director.

Not unusually, Pattison's timing appears to have been extraordinary. He became a significant shareholder in Slocan in the late 1990s, and accelerated his purchases in both companies during the slump in the industry--and its stock prices--occasioned by the softwood lumber dispute and other problems. By analysts' estimates, Pattison made almost $170 million in paper profits under the terms of the merger.

A portion of the dramatic rise simply reflects conditions in the forestry industry, which has been running flat-out to meet demand, says Salman Partners analyst Paul Quinn. But, he adds, "A lot of it is expected synergies." Pattison is famous for his ability to eliminate redundancies, and the merger will make it possible for the new company to invest in new high-throughput mills that can undercut American competitors regardless of how the softwood dispute plays out. More good timing: British Columbia is now led by a free-enterprise government that will not stand in the way of the merger (as the NDP did with a previous merger attempt) or subsequent rationalization. It's an industry on the cusp of consolidation, and Pattison stands to make a killing.

The new company--if a name change is in the offing, Cancan is a sentimental favourite--will have the sort of dominant market share that Pattison likes. The second-largest softwood producer in North America (after U.S.-based Weyerhauser), it will be capable of producing 5.2 billion board feet of lumber annually, resulting in revenues that should approach $3.5 billion in 2004, given current prices. "This is a big deal for B.C.," Pattison says. "It will make us more competitive and secure jobs. And in my opinion, it will strengthen us for the long term."

The long term hasn't always been a word associated with Pattison's activities, but today it definitely is, right across his empire. With only one shareholder--Pattison--to satisfy, managers have been free to ignore the usual clamour for instant share appreciation. The not entirely expected result is a portfolio of companies that, in virtually every case, vie for the lead in their particular category. His innovative grocery chains dominate the business in B.C. and are growing rapidly in Alberta. His fishing company catches more Pacific salmon than any of its competitors. His sign group services 40,000 signs across North America. His outdoor group controls almost half of Canada's billboards. His packaging companies make everything from the tube your toothpaste arrived in to the foam cartons in the cafeteria. His periodical distribution arm ships more than a billion books and magazines every year, almost a third of the North American total. Pattison's car dealerships amount to one of the largest retail outfits in the Canadian industry. He operates 22 radio and television stations. His coal port accounts for 72% of the coal shipped out of B.C. The attractions he operates through Ripley Entertainment draw 12 million visitors a year. And as the cash generated from the various operations comes rolling in, he spins it through his Great Pacific Capital Corp., which buffs it up to an even brighter shine through arbitrage, stock trading and other market activities. All told, he employs 26,000 people and generates profits that he would never think of revealing, but must easily exceed a half-billion dollars a year. And he does all this with a corporate staff of less than two dozen, occupying a single floor of offices in downtown Vancouver.

Pattison's own corner boasts a fabulous view of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains, and that is where he is standing a couple of days before the auto group arrives to launch the February quarterlies. As befits a man who installed white carpet in the engine room of the corporate yacht, his desk and expansive office are a model of organization, no mean feat considering the abundance of mementoes.

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Back in the 1980s, Peter Gzowski described Pattison as "part altruist, part egoist, partly private, part showoff," and nowhere are the contradictions more apparent than here. Copies of Jimmy may no longer greet visitors, but the walls are lined with hundreds of framed clippings and photographs that celebrate Pattison's interactions with fellow rich-and- famous or document his impact on the life of B.C. From a drawer he pulls out the list, updated annually, detailing the 383 deals (almost one a month) he's made since the company's beginnings in 1961.

Of the stack of mail on his desk, he complains that most will be requests for donations, but that doesn't stop him from donating away. Although he describes himself as "not overly religious," Pattison adheres to the same arm of the Pentecostal church that he did as a young boy (his parents converted in Saskatchewan before pulling up stakes for B.C.). One of the church's tenets is tithing: He has always given away 10% of his income. The most famous instance was the cheque for $1 million left on the collection plate at Glad Tidings, the working-stiff Pentecostal institution he includes on his church rotation. But the Pattison name has recently begun to crop up on the walls of major medical and educational buildings as well; these highly visible donations are said to be only a fraction of the whole.

Pattison displays no regret over having to part with so much hard-earned money, but the same is not necessarily true of another religious sacrifice. One of his business commandments is that managers shall not engage in illegal activity of any sort, or indeed in "anything that they wouldn't want to see reported on the front page of the local newspaper." "In Canada things are very honest," Pattison says. "In most of the states they are too. There are certain states where there is more risk." Farther afield, things get dicier. Time and again, opportunities have been passed up in Asia and other regions where business runs on bribery. So, to his chagrin, Pattison's holdings are largely restricted to two countries.

Beside a sofa, amid the well-regimented clutter, seven battered briefcases are neatly lined up. Pattison spends much of the year on the road, flying from city to city on the corporate jet. He's just back from Southern Ontario and Washington, D.C., where he had a meeting with George W. Bush, whom he's known for many years, as he has Bush Sr. In his autobiography, co-written with veteran author Paul Grescoe, Pattison described his packing strategy for such trips: no baggage to speak of, just a change of underwear and a single Ultrasuede jacket, chosen because it wouldn't crease. In the years since, he's upgraded to a conventional blazer, but the strategy's pretty much the same as ever. Each destination gets its own briefcase, allowing him to leave the others on the plane.

Pattison is a happy and even humorous man, with an old-fashioned appreciation of skits and stunts, but he's also something of a business savant who doesn't leave a lot of room in his day for other things. He's a creative guy who'll happily sit down at one of two organs on his yacht and play a tune, although, famously, he's seen only two movies in his life--the second, The Godfather, he endured because he was moving into the newsstand business in the U.S. and thought it might give him some insight into how some of his competitors in that colourful business operated. He keeps pretty much the same 12-hour days and seven-day weeks he always has, and still looks upon rare holidays as an obligation that must be fulfilled.

Similarly, Pattison has had no time for the distractions that end up dogging so many executives.

Girls, for instance. No way. He met the former Mary Hudson on the Pentecostal circuit as a teenager. In June, they will have been married 53 years.

No nepotism here, either. Pattison told his three children they'd have to make their own careers, not rely on a paternal sinecure.

And politics has had only fleeting attraction. Pattison's always been pragmatic. He started out as a Liberal, actively supporting Paul Martin Sr.'s leadership bid--though strictly to fulfill a promise made in a business deal--and even kicked in some money to help Paul Martin Jr. His allegiance in B.C. has been to Social Credit (the party looked to him as a potential successor to Premier Bill Bennett), and the conservative Liberals that came in its wake. But Pattison does not share the antipathy of many in B.C. business circles toward the NDP--witness the hiring of former premier Glen Clark, a favourite face on capitalist dartboards, to manage the B.C. branch of Pattison's sign company. Two promotions later, Clark is running the Canadian arm of Pattison's periodical-distribution business.

Still, being old-fashioned cuts both ways. Conglomerates like Pattison's are about as ^ la mode as Ultrasuede these days. One business is hard enough to understand, let alone several. Accordingly, there's always been great puzzlement over the seemingly random nature of his holdings. He himself has suggested that, if nothing else, most of them share an orientation toward consumers. But there is more to it than that. Generally, businesses in which the company has been unable to gain traction have been ones that Pattison himself had little allegiance to. Property development. Oil and gas. A wandering hockey franchise. On the other hand, most of the companies in his current portfolio have roots in his earliest days.

Cars? Pattison's father was already in the business back in Luseland, Sask., on the day in 1928 that his only son was born, and Pattison himself curbed cars to fellow students during his aborted academic career at the University of British Columbia. In 1961, the Pattison empire had its true beginning when the young star left the high-profile Bowell McLean dealership to launch his own GM franchise.

Signs? While at Bow Mac, Pattison presided over the building of the largest one in the world, and it still stands on West Broadway Avenue.

Media? By the time he left Bowell McLean, Pattison was a master of the media stunt, whether installing a dj atop the giant sign or outfitting bathing beauties to serve as markers in a giant checkers game.

Periodical distribution? Pattison was going door-to-door selling subscriptions to Ladies' Home Journal at the age of 9. He made his first killing on May 8, 1945, when he purchased 500 copies of the Vancouver Province and resold them as souvenirs of war's end.

Fish? Pattison's shot at a degree from UBC faded away after he missed a crucial exam while pursuing an ill-fated scheme to outfit a boat in Peru to catch tuna.

Packaging? The same company that failed to get its boat in the water did manage to become a Canadian pioneer in the manufacture of plastic bags.

Attractions? As a teenager, Pattison was a preaching and trumpet-playing headliner at gospel revival meetings, touring rural Saskatchewan as "The Boy Wonder from Vancouver." He later likened good preaching to good salesmanship.

Well, it's a theory, but Pattison isn't buying it.

He allows that there has been an inclination toward businesses where he's had a rough idea of how things work. From cars he learned about advertising, which led to signs and media. Cars also got him into leasing, which gave him insight into finance. Of late, growth has come mainly through market-share gains, as Pattison companies pick off competitors in industries they are already intimately familiar with.

That focus was learned. Today's operation is distinct from that of the 1960s and '70s. Back then, Pattison took advantage of the fashion for conglomerates to leverage his early interests in autos and media. He began in 1967 by going after Neon Products, a firm that had once refused to hire him because of his diminutive (5 foot 6) stature. Pattison pulled off a classic hostile takeover. With just 20% of the shares, he was in control of a substantial, cash-generating company.

Pattison operated Neonex International as a public company until 1977, during which time it was one of the most swashbuckling risk-takers on the continent. Airlines, hockey franchises, department stores, manufacturers of recreational vehicles and major consumer brands such as Orange Crush spun in and out of the company, seemingly at random. In 1971, Pattison almost lost it all when he tried to take over Maple Leaf Mills, a company larger than his own, only to have his bankers back out on him when the forces of "the Establishment"--in those days one of his favourite terms--closed ranks.

There was more than a little truth to Bay Street's image of Pattison as a plaid-jacketed car salesman run amok. Yet, for all his manic dealmaking, he had long been a student of management. As the company matured, so did this interest.

Pattison was one of the first to become enamoured of Japanese Quality Circles, a result of his happy experiences selling Toyotas. Similarly, he latched onto the idea of return on invested capital as a way to compare all the apples and oranges in his portfolio of companies. Simply put, ROIC is profit divided by invested capital. The riskier an industry, the higher the return must be.

When it comes to acquisitions, Pattison has always had a preference for private companies where the former owners could be persuaded to stay on as operators. And once he had his people in place, his inclination was to let them do their jobs unhindered. There was no time to micromanage during the frenetic dealmaking of the 1970s, anyway, and in that period many mistakes were made, some of them costly.

Thus Pattison's singular system of quarterly meetings was born. It was an attempt to balance the emphasis on entrepreneurship with a strict dose of accountability. The quarterlies' importance cannot be overestimated, according to one former Pattison executive, who recalls asking an old hand how he would know if his first one had gone well. "If you lay your cards on the table and you still have your job, you've had a good meeting," was the veteran's response.

In 1976, Pattison launched the company's first Partners in Pride conference, a less crucial innovation that would nevertheless crystallize the company in the public imagination. The annual gathering of senior executives, sometimes held at Pattison's Palm Springs Sinatra estate, is joined every second year by a mystery guest, from a roster that has included Margaret Thatcher and assorted U.S. presidents. In 1982, when he wanted to send a message that the economy was fragile and the company was showing signs of profligacy, Pattison subjected executives to former NDP premier Dave Barrett, who roasted them with a blazing speech on the evils of capitalism.

Pattison followed up on his own address--dubbed "Park Your Cadillacs"--that year by turning in his own Caddy for a Chev. His alarm was partly due to interest rates, which peaked at nearly 20%. As a private company, the group was unusually vulnerable, since bank loans were its chief source of capital. In contrast, the cheap money of recent years has been a boon for the company. The banks, once a thorn in Pattison's side, have gone on to be his best friends. "We are huge supporters of the banking system because they have made our company," he says.

If some of Pattison's recent success stems from a maturing of his style, other ingredients are pure bedrock. His secretary, Maureen Chant, believes Pattison's obvious smarts matter less than his "unbelievably strong set of personal ethics. His word is his bond, and he loves what he does." Kirk Henderson, along with Michael Korenberg, one of two Pattison vice-chairmen, suggests that the company has three fundamental strengths. The first is the focus on the long term that private ownership allows. (Pattison seconds this, adding that the ability to keep corporate secrets from competitors is another important benefit.) The second is the way that answers can come so quickly; decisions needed by the divisions are made almost instantly, usually by Pattison himself. The third is the strong base of operators: "Independent, autonomous businessmen who think they own the company."

Then there's the Pattison discipline--held personally, and imposed on the company that bears his name. A former Pattison executive wonders if this trait is actually kept in sufficient check, citing the case of a colleague who arrived at work one morning only to be told she'd be departing for Switzerland that very day. Such demands are not unusual. "It's very intense and very intimidating, because to Jimmy everyone is staff," the former executive says. Pattison is, after all, the manager who, as a 24-year-old, instituted a famous policy of firing the worst-producing salesman on the lot at the end of every month. No one has ever disputed that Pattison staff put in an honest day's work.

It is now Feb. 19, and the quarterlies are drawing to a close. Pattison professes to enjoy no division more than any other. But if cars gave him his start, it was his 1985 acquisition of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! that elevated his company from a Western Canadian curiosity to a North American one. Today, the group has brought along no less than 11 executives from across the continent, an extravagance that president Bob Masterson apologizes for.

No PowerPoint is needed to spice up Ripley's 8 a.m. presentation, which, owing to a photo session in which the executives are outfitted as cowboys, does not begin until 7:26. Ripley's is the largest operator of "museum-style" attractions in North America, and head office is updated on the 160 new wax figures on order and the unfortunate rate at which sharks are eating the other fish at one of the company's aquariums. While papers circulate, Pattison scans them and deposits most in a wastebasket at his feet. As ever, Maureen Chant sits silently by his side, passing him notes and documents to sign. Pattison responds in the affirmative when asked if he might contemplate a trip to the Middle East to smooth negotiations with a Crown prince. He sits up in his chair when talk turns to the acquisition of two more shrunken heads--Ripley's possesses the largest collection in the world.

Unusually for a Pattison company, the delegation includes an executive sporting an earring and ponytail, and another rather bohemian-looking presenter who is notable for his unlikely combination of casual demeanour and visible intensity. This turns out to be Jim Pattison Jr., who is an executive vice-president in charge of new business.

Pattison Sr. has always worried about the effect that money might have on his three children (his two daughters have pursued careers in education and retail). He told them all to expect neither jobs nor money. Perhaps Jimmy is beaming inside as Jimmy Jr. wraps up his polished presentation. If so, he does a good job of concealing it. Pattison only consented to the hiring of his son after he'd reached his 30s and showed no sign of becoming one of the spoiled rich kids he used to run into when he was selling cars.

Succession plans for the company remain a much-speculated-upon mystery. Over the years, Pattison has had some trusted lieutenants, including the late Bill Sleeman, to whom he presented a Rolls-Royce convertible as a retirement gift, and Nick Geer, who left in 1998 for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, of which he is now CEO. But today there is no obvious successor, and it's not clear that Jimmy Jr., who likes Ripley's focus on oddities and entertainment, has any interest. Pattison Sr. has a stock answer to the question: "Succession plans are constantly updated, as they have been for 25 years."

As with the auto group, Ripley's quarterly is a cheerful one, not an excruciating one. The company has increased its flow of visitors while keeping its costs well below the industry average, a combination that has yielded yet another sparkling ROIC. Two weeks ago, Pattison flew to Ontario to finalize details on the purchase of a 25-acre site in Niagara Falls. Today, the visiting group is already able to unveil its plans for a hotel, museum and aquarium, right down to the architectural drawings. The only debate arises over the division's plans to buy a particular attraction in the Southern U.S.; in Pattison's view, the strategy is too nebulous and the payback too long. "I've said my piece," he concludes. Ripley's executives may yet go ahead with the purchase, but their due diligence will be diligent indeed.

By 11 o'clock, the meeting is over. Shortly, Pattison will be on a plane to California. He won't say why he's going, but he will say that after a couple of years of doldrums, people are once again bringing him deals. If they're wise, they'll make them good ones.

It's Jimmy's world

MEDIA

Some 42% of out-of-home advertising in Canada--billboards, bus boards, mall posters and what-have-you--displays the Pattison name. Pattison also has the country's largest western-based broadcast stable: 16 FM, three AM and three TV stations, mostly in smaller B.C. and Alberta centres.

MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTION

Pattison's various magazine-and-book distributors--operating under the rubric News Group--claim 50% of the market in Canada and 27% in the U.S. The company is notably absent from New York City, where the newsstand business, although cleaned up in recent years, has historical ties to organized crime.

AUTOMOTIVE

In 1961, Pattison helped pioneer the leasing business. Not only did it get him around GM's policy of permitting only one dealership per person, it enabled him to maintain an ongoing relationship with customers. Jim Pattison Lease currently owns and manages more than 10,000 cars across Canada. Pattison also operates a dozen GM, Toyota, Lexus, Kia, Hyundai and Volvo dealerships in B.C.

EXPORT & FINANCIAL

Pattison's miscellaneous but scarcely minor interests include real-estate and trading arms that support the other divisions; Vancouver's giant Westshore Terminals, a crucial link in Canada's coal-export trade; and Great Pacific Capital, the vehicle through which Pattison bought stakes in Canfor and Slocan, a move credited with triggering a merger of the two forestry companies.

ENTERTAINMENT

The long-running (since 1918) Ripley's Believe It or Not! Syndicated newspaper feature is dwarfed by the tourist-attraction company that grew out of it - 44 attraction, including six under the Guinness World Records banner, in 10 countries. Coming soon: a 25-acre museum, aquarium and hotel complex within earshot of Niagara Falls.

SIGNS

Supplying clients such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's, Pattison Sign Group is the top sign company in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Unusually for a Pattison company, it also operates around the globe. Its offerings range from design through to maintenance, from giant freestanding "pylon" signs to menu boards in restaurant windows.

PACKAGING

A growth area in recent years, with several acquisitions. New York State-based Genpak specializes in takeout packaging for the likes of KFC, Harvey's and Tim Hortons. Texas-based Cororplast produces corrugated plastic for cartons and signs. Ontario-based Montebello Packaging makes tubes for foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

FOOD

Pattison's food group has about a quarter of the B.C. retail market and an increasing presence in Alberta, operating under banners that include Overwaitea, Save-On-Foods, Cooper's Foods, Urban Fare and Price$mart Foods. Buy-Low Foods is Canada's largest wholesale distributor to independent stores, and the Canadian Fishing Co. (Gold Seal and other brands) is the top fishing company in B.C.

Frankie and Jimmy

If ever there was anyone who did it "my way," it is Jimmy Pattison. So in 1995, Vancouver heads nodded knowingly when word got back that, for $4.6 million (U.S.), Pattison had purchased Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs estate. Sinatra, although in declining health, celebrated the deal by gathering a group of friends--wife Barbara and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme among them--around the piano for one last sing-along. It was an emotional moment, made more so by the fact that the piano would be staying in the house, along with virtually everything else, down to the gold records on the walls, the original oil paintings on the easels and the tennis shirts in the closets. Pattison--who says he actually is more of a Dean Martin fan--wrote all this into the sales agreement.

Pattison has loved the Palm Springs area since his first trips there in the 1960s. The Sinatra place, a rambling affair with numerous bungalows and outbuildings, is used primarily as a corporate retreat and client schmoozing ground. Guests can swim in Frank's pool and play with his incredible collection of model trains, a Pattison enthusiasm. They might even find themselves bunking down in rooms where Marilyn Monroe or John F. Kennedy slept--possibly even together.

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