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Mazur: John Deuss' Editors On Record On The Man

John Deuss' Editors On Record On The Man

By Suzan Mazur

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"When contemplating money laundering actions against smaller financial institutions, I often wonder at the risks that plague the little guys when they try to compete with the NY Federal Reserve member banks on their home turf."
-- Catherine Austin Fitts, Assistant Secretary of HUD -- Bush I Administration, former Managing Director of Dillon Read & Co. Inc. and President of The Hamilton Securities Group, Inc.

"We made a point in the [Medici Conspiracy] book with the ivory head of Apollo, valued at $50 million. That was security for a loan for [art dealer] Robin Symes with Credit Suisse First Boston, I think. And it's true that these banks are just unfamiliar with . . . the fact that antiquities are probably looted . . . [T]his is one of Dick [Scotland Yard] Ellis' points. . . And if one had an art squad that had more interest in antiquities . . . then they might well on occasion do a tour of the banks to say: "Are you aware? Please be aware. And you should not lend on these things." -- Peter Watson, Scoop: Krumpets With Medici Conspiracy's Peter Watson

THE HUSH HUSH nature of the John Deuss investigation related to VAT-skimming deposits at his offshore First Curacao International Bank gives the impression that deeper politics are at play.

And with the media having reduced Deuss to a balance sheet over the financial tangle -- even the usually respectable Guardian newspaper sinking into the Big Muddy with a story attributing Deuss' childhood scars to firebombing by anti-apartheid activists -- I decided to contact two former editors of Deuss' Chief Executive magazine for their perspective on the man.

John Deuss, a Dutch national, is being held without charge in The Netherlands, voluntarily answering questions for the last month about the FCIB matter.

His magazine, Chief Executive, whose first issue appeared in 1976, somewhat resembled the glossy Aramco World. And the magazine's staff shared offices in New York's fashionable Olympic Towers with Deuss' JOC Oil Company, later called Transworld Oil.

Deuss was editor-in-chief/publisher, CEO and chairman of the board. The book reached a "limited list of 25,000 distinguished world leaders" and some of the same people were profiled. Lavish full-page ads were dropped in from Gulf Oil, McDermott, Bell Telephone, Canadair, MedAfrica Cargo, the Arab African Intrernational Bank and Paris' Hotel George V.

The masthead of the magazine changed periodically. Some of Deuss' high profile friends served as officers and advisors. John Hoey who ran the Arab African International Bank out of a suite of offices adjacent to Deuss' which he rented from Deuss, was the magazine's vice president in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Hoey had been a US Foreign Service Officer at the Saigon Embassy in Vietnam earlier in the 70s and co-wrote the assessment book on US pacification efforts. He later went into investment banking in the Arabian Gulf and then into the oil business, serving as president of Hondo Oil as well as Atlantic Refining --a Deuss company.

John Hoey is now a Director of Tethys Oil in Stockholm (Tethys was Sweden's first IPO). He is highly regarded by everyone.

Coincidentally, the Saigon US Embassy compound's offices were shared by the chief of station for the CIA -- a man named Ted Shackley. Also, coincidentally, Shackley became an advisor for John Deuss after leaving the CIA in the 1970s, starting his own political risks company called Research Associates International.

Former Saigon CIA Station Chief Ted Shackley – Click For Original Image

Deuss paid Shackley to organize oil shipments for him to apartheid South Africa. The Vietnam spymaster was also featured in several Chief Executive articles.

Shackley, prior to Vietnam, co-ordinated anti-Castro attacks on Cuba and ran the undeclared wars in Cambodia and Laos. And he was linked to such controversial names as rogue CIA agent Edwin Wilson, Thomas Clines, John Singlaub, Philip Agee, Manucher Hashemi, Rafael (Chi Chi) Quintero and even Australia's CIA-linked/arms-dealing/narco-trafficking Nugan Hand Bank -- which some observers are now comparing First Curacao International Bank to.

However, a source close to John Deuss says that the current financial matter is "100% about the VAT".

It was not John Hoey, however, who introduced Deuss to Shackley. The introduction was made by a man named Michael Corrie, who ran Shell Oil-Vietnam. Corrie at one point served as President of Transworld Oil and of Chief Executive. The list of personalities surrounding Deuss goes on. . .

One of those who agreed to comment about John Deuss is J.P. Donlon. Donlon was managing editor of the original Chief Executive magazine and is now its editor-in-chief. The magazine was sold by Deuss more than a decade ago and then resold and is now owned by Butler International, with offices in Montvale, New Jersey.

Chief Executive has has also evolved through the years. It regularly hosts business conferences now, besides weighing in on the issues of the day affecting chief executives.

Donlon has also served as editor-in-chief of Directorship magazine, which focuses on matters of corporate governance. But he's probably devoted more years to the nurturing of Chief Executive.

I knew J.P. Donlon briefly in the 1980s. He'd come to CE from Fairchild's Men's Wear and never forgot his roots -- always impeccably dressed.

Author Leda Sanford, who served as associate publisher/editor of the original Chief Executive and later hired Donlon, agreed to a Q&A with me about Deuss. Sanford is now living and writing from Sausalito. She and Donlon knew one another from Men's Wear, where Sanford was editor-in-chief. She has also served as publisher of American Home, Bon Appetit, Attenzione and FMR.

The J.P. Donlon commentary is first, followed by my Q&A with Leda Sanford.



Shortly after I joined Chief Executive in 1978, the company changed its name to Transworld Oil from JOC Oil. It was told to me that the "Johns" in Johns Oil Company (JOC) referred to John Deuss and another person whom he was at one time partnered with. That person had departed the company -- again, from what I was told -- before I came on the scene.

Chief Executive magazine was but one of many businesses John Deuss had started. I never got involved with any of the others and had no knowledge of their operations. Our plate was full just trying to get CE off the ground.

I cannot speak to how John Deuss managed his affairs in the oil trading, banking or land investments he made. I only know how he operated with us.

For the most part Deuss gave me a free hand in managing the publication. Every now and again there was an oil person he wanted us to cover or interview, but this was not unreasonable considering oil and politics were joined at the hip -- and still are.

When he and Henry Dormann founded CE in 1976, Deuss wanted a publication of high production value in order to have a calling card when needed. It was perhaps a bit too glossy for our taste, but it made its mark as a brand in the end and is well understood as a voice by and for CEOs.

A year later he and Dormann had a falling out, at which time the two went their separate ways. Deuss decided he wanted to change direction. He went through a series of different editors and managements before settling on the team that I led.

While still keeping his hand in every now and again, Deuss was rather busy attending to his principal business. In 1985, he sold the publication to Macfadden Holdings. It changed hands again in 1991, when it was acquired by a private investor group. In 2005, it became a part of Butler International.

Chief Executive is very different today from its beginnings. It is written largely by journalists and professionals targeting specific developments and challenges faced by business leaders. It also has an energized conference business and a destination website providing resources for business leaders. (

John Deuss exhibited all the classic archetypes of an entrepreneur. He was bold, aggressive, acted quickly and had an extremely high tolerance for risk.

One of his close advisors, Jock D. Ritchie, observed to me that John could see a deal in the merest fragment of incomplete information that came his way. Deuss was not university educated but he was extremely smart and sharp-minded, although not necessarily self-aware.

Like most entrepreneurs, Deuss was no Hamlet. Entrepreneurs act, they don't reflect. [emphasis added]

For example, when Canadair launched its first aircraft, the first one that could cross the Atlantic without refueling, Deuss ordered two. Most customers were sitting back playing let's-wait-and-see.

Later, he sold the first order to another company that was only too eager to get one. Deuss pocketed the profit without every having to take possession of the Canadair aircraft itself.

In the mid 1980s, Deuss bought Texaco's oil refinery and some 560 petrol stations in the Mid Atlantic states when everyone in the business had given up on refining and retailing. He later sold everything for a huge premium. Whenever he spotted opportunity, he seized it.

If he could be quick to anger at times, he was also quick to cool. And didn't carry grudges, as far I could see.

He was extremely demanding of people who worked for him and this made him difficult to work for, but he also drove himself harder than anyone else. Again, these are classic entrepreneur personality types.

USC's Warren Bennis would have loved to have been able to get his psycho-organizational leadership tweezers around John Deuss, if only Deuss would tolerate it, which I rather doubt.

Superficially, Deuss might have appeared to behave at times like a bully with some people. He was clearly a taskmaster, but one soon gradually appreciates that this was largely an expression of his impatience. He wanted things to happen on his timetable and he didn't suffer fools gladly. But then neither did Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Sumner Redstone, Barry Diller or from what I read, John D. Rockefeller.

This is not sentimentalism. One judges a leader by the type of people with whom he surrounds himself. When you see a leader surrounded by cowed hacks you know your are dealing with an insecure person. On the contrary, a great many Transworlders with whom I came into contact were high performers.

TWO had traders who had worked with Amoco, BP, Mobil, Exxon, Shell you name it. They were all different personalities and not a group one could see organizing a pick-up game of company softball. But they were clearly good at what they did and were generally smart.

One example comes to mind. One of the many businesses that Deuss started was a women's dress business. The president of the dress business was a clever Swiss with a great sense of humor (if you'll forgive the oxymoron) named Max.

[Max Bernegger was his name and "Alexandra Christie" was the fashion house -- I was the model Scoop: Suzan Mazur: John Deuss - The Manhattan projects. Prior to Alexandra Christie, Bernegger managed legendary fashion designer Norman Norell. Norell died in 1972 and Max was looking for a new career. I helped Max and John Deuss to later close the business at Alexandra Christie. It was Max who really brought me to Deuss' attention.]

Deuss recognized that Max would make an excellent oil trader, despite the fact that Max knew only women's wear and nothing at all about the oil business. Max later told me he wasn't so sure himself, but that he was intrigued by the confidence that Deuss had in him. Max turned out to be the best trader at TWO, surprising himself as much as anyone else.

The other aspect of Transworld that became apparent was that most people there were loyal to John despite his periodic displays of temper. It became apparent why when I saw that he was very loyal to his people.

Unlike a lot of leaders who spout nonsense about people being the company's most important asset, Deuss was very generous to people who had personal or family health problems, sometimes keeping them on payroll well after other companies would have severed ties. He was also very private about such doings. One learned about such things through the grapevine.

A gifted figure that Deuss relied upon was an Etonian Scot named Jock Ritchie. Ritchie was a director of JOC/Transworld and an advisor to John. He was also an advisor to me while at Chief Executive and was the best thing that happened to me professionally.

Ritchie was a former CEO of Scallop Petroleum, a New York-based marketing unit of Shell Oil. Previously he was CEO of Shell Brazil, and I believe, another Shell unit in the Middle East.

After Eton, Jock Ritchie served on a gunboat with the Royal Navy during WWII in the Mediterranean. He spoke six languages, five of them well, and took notes in an Economist diary written in Portuguese but notated in Arabic script.
When I asked him why, he replied that if he mislaid or lost the diary only a Portuguese-speaking Arab could decipher its contents and that the risk of the diary falling into such a person's hands was likely to be low.

John Deuss respected Jock Ritchie for his counsel and his business acumen. Shell had a reputation for developing leaders from within as few companies do today and Ritchie, although retired, exhibited the best that Shell could offer in a senior manager.

However, John Deuss may have appeared to others, he had an abiding respect for one's elders -- and this was manifest in the deference he displayed towards Ritchie. Deuss once insisted on carrying Ritchie's black business briefcase to a meeting himself despite Ritchie's protestations that he could manage quite well on his own, thank you.

Deuss respected Jock's thinking and wisdom -- about almost anything, and he treated him much as Alexander might treat Socrates. Deuss sought Ritchie's counsel on a range of issues -- not just the oil business.

Deuss also appreciated, as most of us at the time did, that Jock Ritchie was a Renaissance man. He could quote entire passages from Byron or Keats as well as a clever off-color limerick. Jock was widely read and could relate any business situation to a scene from, say Shakespeare's Coriolanus to something General Haig did during the First World War.

Not having a university education himself, John Deuss admired and respected learning -- true learning, not just educational credentialism.

Jock's successor at Scallop Petroluem was Michael Corrie, an Anglo-Eqyptian and another product of Shell's deep bench of managerial talent. When Corrie retired from Shell, Deuss hired him to be president of TWO.

It was Corrie who introduced Deuss to Ted Shackley about which a lot of nonsense has been written. Shackley was the CIA station chief in Saigon during the 1960s when as it happened Corrie ran Shell's operations there.

Shackley would later retire from the agency as deputy director of covert operations. He left CIA in 1977 when Jimmy Carter installed Stansfield Turner as director of the agency at which point he, in the wake of the Church Committee, eviscerated the organization so completely that it has yet to recover to this day.

Shackley had started his own consultancy, Research Associates International, where he developed politcal risk analysis to a high art. Because Deuss operated in many parts of the world that were volatile, he saw Shackley as an ideal resource and commissioned risk studies.

Having read some of these reports that were passed onto me, I commissioned Shackley to write several articles for CE on political risk analysis and how one can size up underlying risk factors in countries and regions.

Shackley spoke four languages fluently and had excellent connections in places most people do not, so his observations were closely reviewed. Today political risk analysis is fairly common. Companies such as AIG and Aon use it routinely. It was less common in the early 1980s and much of it was rather crude and superficial.

Around this time, David Corn wrote the book, Blond Ghost, which was a hatchet job, singling out Shackley for all manor of crimes and misdemeanors. [emphasis added]

I asked Ted why he didn't respond to what he regarded as the blatant untruths Corn wrote about him. He replied that even if he could, there would be little point in doing so.

The CIA is the Left's favorite whipping boy and he, Shackley, operated in its darkest corridors. He felt the bias in the book would be apparent to any level-headed person who bothered to read it.

The problem is that since Shackley's death, there has been no one to defend him from the book's accusations. A pity. Shackley had mixed feelings about the Agency but was intensely loyal to his former comrades.

I remember meeting Shackley in Washington where he took former CIA chief William Colby to lunch. Colby, now long since deceased as well, recounted a number of experiences from the heady days of the Vietnam War.

News reports of investigations into Deuss' empire by UK and Dutch tax authorities are both colorful and bizarre. The allegations suggest someone who has lost all sense of proportion, not to mention misjudging the risks involved. This isn't the John Deuss I once knew. He was too sensible or clever to be caught up in something like this. (He once remarked in an offhand way how foolish he thought Marc Rich was in flaunting the law.)

John Deuss has faced tough scrapes before. Don't count him out yet.

J.P. Donlon
Chief Executive magazine



Leda Sanford

Suzan Mazur: Would you describe your first meeting with John Deuss?

Leda Sanford: I met John Deuss in January 1978 at a time when he urgently needed a person to pick up the pieces of his Chief Executive magazine and produce the fourth issue.

It was an unforgettable encounter because of the dramatic setting of his office on the19th floor of the Olympic Towers and his own striking appearance.

Deuss seemed a bit sinister. His face appeared slanted and he had a sort of "Hitler hairdo". But when he smiled and put out his hand to welcome me I relaxed.

It was 6pm. The New York sky was dark behind the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral, silhouetted in the floor-to-ceiling windows of his office.

Deuss was impressed that I'd worked for Raymond K. Mason, as president and publisher of American Home magazine.

Mason was the owner of Charter Publishing, the third largest publishing company in the US at the time. Mason was also chairman and founder of Charter Oil.

Prior to my becoming publisher of American Home, I'd been editor-in-chief of Men's Wear, a magazine put out by Fairchild [also publisher of Women's Wear Daily -- the bible of the fashion industry].

I distinctly remember how uncomfortable it was for Deuss to admit that he was in a predicament. [emphasis added]

Suzan Mazur: What was the predicament?

Leda Sanford: He was trusting. And he had allowed a man named Henry O. Dormann, apparently "inventor" of the idea of Chief Executive, to operate without proper oversight. He'd met Dormann in Africa in a hotel lobby and it was there that Dormann sold him on the idea for the magazine. Deuss put a lot of money into the magazine.

Suzan Mazur: How much?

Leda Sanford: Nobody was keeping track. But then Deuss had to abruptly fire Dormann. Dormann had also been asking for extravagance -- a marble bathroom, etc.

But when Dormann left, he took the company files and advertising insertion orders with him. And he set up his own company a few blocks away, announcing that Chief Executive magazine had changed its name to Leaders. That advertising materials should be sent to the new address of Leaders.

Suzan Mazur: Why did you decide to take the Chief Executive Associate Publisher/Editor position?

Leda Sanford: I like challenge. I took the job because it was different. And it would cause me to stretch.

Deuss did not want to close the magazine over the Dormann incident. The magazine was a useful tool for gaining access to CEOs and politicians, which could benefit Joc Oil. He needed someone who could jump in quickly, oversee production and editorial, and convince the ad agencies who had committed to the fourth issue of Chief Executive scheduled for April 1978, that their commitment was indeed to his magazine.

Deuss was cordial and emphatic during that first meeting. He asked what I wanted as salary, and he asked me to prepare a budget & recommendations for a small staff.

And the fourth issue of Chief Executive, did indeed, come out on time -- with a profile of Ian Smith, the new prime minister of Rhodesia on the cover. It was designed by Paul Hardy, the art director I worked with throughout my career.

Ian Smith, then the new prime minister of Rhodesia on the cover of Chief Executive magazine

Suzan Mazur: Was Deuss a hands-on editor-in-chief?

Leda Sanford: Deuss gave me complete autonomy. His only involvement was conducting the major interviews that appeared in the magazine. One of the high points was my ability to get him a meeting and interview with Andreotti the prime minister of Italy.

Suzan Mazur: How long did you stay at the magazine?

Leda Sanford: I worked for John Deuss for one year. His office was at one end of the 19th floor and ours were at the other. In between there were the offices of traders who could be heard screaming on the phone along with the churning of telex machines.

Suzan Mazur: Why only one year?

Leda Sanford: The need to constantly correct the belief that Henry Dormann did not have the "true" magazine was very discouraging. It all came to a head when Dormann sued me for defamation of character for contradicting his claims when calling on ad agencies. The suit was designed to get rid of me. And it did.

Suzan Mazur. Was there an element of espionage in the office with Ted “Blond Ghost” Shackley signing on as advisor to John Deuss right after leaving the CIA in the late 70s? Shackley had his own company called Research Associates International and helped Deuss organize oil shipments to apartheid South Africa.

Did you ever meet Ted Shackley, or Michael Corrie – who was an executive with Shell Oil in Vietnam and later became president of Transworld Oil? It was Corrie who introduced Shackley to Deuss, apparently.

Leda Sanford: Never met them.

Suzan Mazur: What about John Hoey who rented offices from Deuss on the 19th floor where he ran the New York headquarters for the Arab African International Bank? Hoey was also vice president of the magazine, I believe.

Leda Sanford: Yes, John Hoey I remember well. A wonderful man.

Suzan Mazur: You mentioned to me that you wrote the First Curacao International Bank annual report for 1978. What were your impressions having reviewed many of the documents?

It is rumored that FCIB may have served as some kind of “black budget” bank – along the lines of Australia’s Nugan Hand bank – and that is why there has been such secrecy over the current Deuss investigation. Deuss has so far not been charged over the FCIB matter.

Leda Sanford: Yes, that year, 1978, I was also asked to produce the annual report for the First Curacao International Bank. Paul Hardy and I wrote and designed the report using materials provided by the Deuss people.

I won't speculate about the veracity of what we produced.

At that point I met Jeno Paulucci, a colorful entrepreneur who wanted to start a magazine for Italian Americans called Attenzione. And so I resigned from Chief Executive.

Suzan Mazur: Is there anything more you remember from putting together the annual report that might shed light on Deuss’s current problems?

Leda Sanford: I can't really comment on the shenanigans of big oil companies. I went there to do a job. I did it.

Suzan Mazur: You’ve told me that you are writing your memoirs and that you’ve included the Deuss episode. Can you share a preview?

Leda Sanford: My memoirs are still in the early stage. John Deuss had Charisma. But after that I lost touch with him.


Suzan Mazur's reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Progressive Review, CounterPunch and Scoop, among others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: sznmzr @

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