It’s fair to say that the Pacific Coast Business Times might not have survived its early years without the advice and counsel of the late Philip Drescher, a longtime Ventura County attorney, who passed away in mid-July in Montana at age 83.
I met Phil more than 20 years ago on a trip to the Central Coast to explore the possibility of starting a business journal. After a round of golf at Saticoy Country Club, Phil encouraged me to start the venture that became the Business Times.
I must have played well enough that day because, sitting around the men’s club on a fall afternoon, he introduced me around and described the economic potential of Ventura County, with Amgen booming in Thousand Oaks and a new university in Camarillo that would become CSU Channel Islands.
He embraced the idea of a weekly business publication for the Central Coast and told me that I would be crazy if I didn’t quit my job in Denver and take that entrepreneurial leap. He became an investor, our legal counsel, an adviser and, most of all, a friend and source of great stories.
He had a booming voice and could be skeptical, questioning and effective in making his point. He also had a way of taking a setback in stride and having a good laugh — a great way to keep perspective.
He taught me that patience was an essential quality for a successful entrepreneur; he had an old-school way of doing business that was slow but thorough. We went to court in Santa Barbara to seek approval for the Business Times to publish legal notices and I was impressed when Judge Tom Anderle greeted Phil like an old friend and then deferred to Phil’s interpretation of a less than clearly worded statute. Phil suggested we “err on the side of caution” by posting a formal notice to the court and returning for a second appearance. We got our approval.
I knew that Phil had graduated from Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School, had been a deputy Ventura County district attorney, and that he had practiced at several small firms. What I didn’t know was that he was a trusted adviser to many prominent Ventura County families for whom he was a sounding board and strategist.
“Phil was a spectacular man and a very dear friend of our family’s. His footprint on Ventura County will last for many years. He was a heck of a golfer and a heck of a nice guy,” wrote Harold Edwards, CEO of Limoneira, in an email.
I learned a few more things about Phil. That he was totally devoted to his family, including his wife and childhood sweetheart Marcia, his four children and nine grandchildren. Phil had served as an officer on a wooden-hulled minesweeper during his two years in the Navy in the 1950s. He served on the board of Community Memorial Hospital and advised United Water for years.
A fifth-generation Californian, he was an avid collector of western art and served on the board of the Charles M. Russell Museum in Montana, where he ran into some of my Denver friends. He had a place on Flathead Lake in Montana that was his refuge and family retreat.
We occasionally talked about politics. He was conservative but he also appreciated pragmatists who could get things done.
One day he called me out of the blue and asked me if I had heard about a guy named Barrack Obama who was going to run for president. He carefully did not express an opinion but pointed out that Obama had been editor of Harvard Law Review and that was not a small thing. I paid attention.
One of the last times we talked, he told me about a fledgling lemonade venture based out of a boat in Ventura Harbor. That’s how I learned about Lori’s Original Lemonade, now a national sensation.
Phil was in Montana earlier this year when he suffered a serious stroke and never recovered. He died at his lake house, in a bed overlooking the water, surrounded by his family. A life well lived.
There is a memorial service for Phil at 2 p.m. Aug. 16 at Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura and a reception afterward at Saticoy Country Club.
Donations can be made to Community Memorial Healthcare Foundation at www.cmhventura.org/donate/.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]