Clifford Giese

Marketing '68

Published on January 31, 2019

Clifford Giese was a young Edmonton stockbroker when he took his dad for lunch and dreamed up an idea that spawned an industry.

The elder Giese had taken his car for an oil change that morning and at lunchtime, it still wasn’t ready. The minor annoyance stuck with Giese, in particular because self-serve gas stations were arriving on the scene – a shift he figured would spell the demise of the full service garage.

So how about a new kind of place, he thought, with oil changes while you wait?

With his dad, he opened the first Mr. Lube in 1976 and, within a decade, there were 47 stores across Canada. In 1987, the chain expanded into the United States after Giese secured a partnership with oil giant Exxon. In business, Giese explains, you must take calculated risks, and be prepared to lose. “To me, the thrill is to play the game.”

Sometimes, the stakes are higher, as when Giese’s wife, Robin (Secretarial Technology ’68), was stricken with multiple sclerosis.

When her health stabilized after she started taking an experimental drug being developed at the University of Alberta, Giese founded BioMS Medical (now called Medwell Capital Corp.). He and his team raised $270 million and took the drug as far as a worldwide trial. The results weren’t good enough to bring the drug to market, but Giese continues to dedicate his life to finding a better treatment for MS.

Though essentially retired, he’ll still give a tempting opportunity his signature 360-degree look. “It’s better to have played and lost than never to have played at all.”

— Eliza Barlow