He used charm, others’ personal tragedies and fake celebrity endorsements. How Christopher LaVoie cast his reality show and reeled in successful entrepreneurs.
One day, Chris LaVoie was walking down the block when he saw a car he wasn’t familiar with. It was driving slower than traffic allowed, then stopped at the curb.
LaVoie looked into the driver’s seat, saw the person in the seat inside and immediately recognized him: Michael Phelan.
LaVoie was in a meeting in Toronto with other executives of BMO Financial Group when he called Phelan’s cellphone. It was a short call.
“He said, ‘Hey Chris! How’s it going?’ — and then hung up.
LaVoie called back the next day. Phelan was back, and the two chatted through voicemails for nearly an hour. LaVoie wanted to know if Phelan had gotten a job in finance and if he felt his life had turned around.
Phelan told him he had a job as a senior analyst at a money management firm called First Canadian. He got off work about four o’clock that afternoon, and LaVoie drove into Toronto for dinner with his friends Mark and Sarah MacLoughlin.
“I’m always looking for that person … that someone special. And you know there’s this guy who comes along who … He’s a good guy. He’s nice. He’s charismatic. He’s great. I can talk to him. I can be friends with him. That’s what drew me and drew me back.”
A few months later, LaVoie was flying to London to get an interview to be a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” (The idea of the talk show wasn’t something he initially discussed with Phelan; in fact,