Gold Dust

— Disclosure of the pending divorce between Peter Jensen and Princess Ubol Ratana, the eldest daughter of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, is causing tongues to wag and students of local business fiascos to dust off their histories of Yuba Natural Resources, Inc. Yuba was the gold-from-sand mining outfit that convicted felon Dick Silberman took over back in the early 1980s, hoping to turn it into stock market bonanza for himself and his investors, including the late Hotel Del Coronado proprietor and Democratic moneyman Larry Lawrence, Mafia front Allen Glick, La Jolla swindler J. David Dominelli, and late Jack In The Box mogul and then-San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor's husband Bob Peterson. Silberman's other partner was Jensen, an engineering grad from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was put in charge of the mining operation on the banks of the Yuba River north of Sacramento. In a story about the venture four years before Silberman tumbled for an FBI sting and was busted for attempted drug-money laundering in 1989, Forbes magazine described Jensen as having caused "an international scandal" when he married the king's daughter "at the tender age of 21." "In fact, no sooner did the palace discover what had happened than all the princess's pictures were scissored out of royal scrapbooks. (More recently Jensen has returned to royal favor.)" Jensen, then 34, took Forbes on a tour of Yuba's would-be gold fields and was quoted as saying, "You can pan dogshit out here and find gold. There's gold everywhere." Forbes was skeptical. "In all those mountains of silica sand Yuba may have enough gold to dazzle a pharaoh -- or maybe nothing more than the world's greatest hoard of scouring powder." In March 1990, the San Diego Tribune reported that a big part of Silberman's 1983 investment in Yuba had come from a $1.9 million loan made by the Siam Commercial Bank of Thailand. "The loan was made to Jensen, Yuba's president, and his wife, who has wealthy relatives in Thailand," the paper said. It quoted Jensen as saying that "although Silberman's name was not on the loan documents, he and Silberman shared equally in making the payments. He said, however, they both stopped making payments last year as the company's difficulties mounted." After Silberman was convicted and sent off to a federal prison in the Mojave Desert, Yuba's gold-mining business was widely seen as a sham, and Silberman was kicked out of the company. Yuba was later transformed into Western Water, a company that buys and sells water rights, which Jensen still runs.

Too Much TV

The daughter of Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, the late Mexican media mogul and one of the country's richest men, has taken her brother to Mexican court in an attempt to grab a bigger share of the multibillion-dollar family fortune, reports the Financial Times of London. The paper says Alessandra Azcarraga de Sepul, who lives on an estate in Rancho Santa Fe, wants her 31-year-old brother Emilio Azcarraga Jean to give her a 6.68 percent stake in Televicentro, a family holding company that owns 44 percent of Televisa, the powerful Mexican TV broadcaster, which, among other stations, owns XETV, the Fox affiliate in San Diego. The Times says that brother Emilio has expanded his stake in Televicentro by means of "a complex combination of debt restructuring and a shareholder reshuffle in which his cousin, Alejandro Burillo Azcarraga, kept a 25 percent stake." Emilio's other big partner is said to be Carlos Slim Helu, owner of Telmex, the big Mexican phone company that is opening its U.S. headquarters in San Diego today.

Smoke Signals

Is San Diego County in for another Indian-casino megaplex? So claims Minneapolis-based Lakes Gaming, Inc., which issued a news release last week saying it had formed a partnership "to develop and manage a casino resort facility" with an unnamed local tribe. "Development of the casino resort will not begin until the Tribe has entered into a compact with the state of California."... A 23-year-old passenger from Mexicali traveling on a one-way ticket from San Diego to New York's LaGuardia airport was busted at a stopover in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport last week with a suitcase full of heroin worth $500,000.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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