It was while Robert Friedland was having sex with his college girlfriend that he met Steve Jobs.
Jobs was looking to sell his typewriter and walked in on the otherwise occupied couple. Jobs left, apologetic, but Friedland urged him to stay and the two became fast friends.
Friedland had ended up at Reed College with Steve Jobs under wildly unusual circumstances. He was on parole from federal prison after he got caught with 24,000 hits of LSD worth $125,000.
In 1973, he traveled to India to study under the guru Neem Karoli Baba. His spiritual attitudes had a huge effect on young Steve Jobs.
“He turned me on to a different level of consciousness,” Jobs said.
Daniel Kottke was friends with both Jobs and Friedland at the time. He said, “Robert was very much an outgoing, charismatic guy, a real salesman. When I first met Steve he was shy and self-effacing, a very private guy. I think Robert taught him a lot about selling, about coming out of his shell, of opening up and taking charge of a situation.”
Friedland’s charisma was his most useful asset as he plied his business sense to become Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ivanhoe Mines. He developed mining interests all around the globe and become extremely wealthy — his personal fortune is estimated to be $2 billion by Forbes.
It comes at something of a cost, however. Friedland oversaw the Summit mine, the site of worst cyanide release in the US. In certain circles, he is known as “Toxic Bob” or “The Ugly Canadian.”
Looking back on his friendship with Friedland, Steve Jobs said, “It was a strange thing to have one of the spiritual people in your young life turn out to be, symbolically and in reality, a gold miner.”
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