Obituaries: Patrick J. Frawley Jnr

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The Independent Culture
PATRICK J. FRAWLEY Jnr was a high-school dropout who went on to make his fortune from pens that would not leak and razors that did not rust, with the companies Paper Mate and Schick, then devoted himself to anti-Communist causes and made it his business to combat alcohol and drug addiction.

An independent-minded entrepreneur who saw opportunity where others saw difficulty, Frawley may have inherited his entrepreneurial zeal from his father, who was an Irish-born professor of literature; he went to Nicaragua for his health and variously became a banker, import-exporter and dealer in heavy equipment.

At the age of 18, just two years after dropping out of school in San Francisco, and returning to Nicaragua to work with his father, Frawley junior had learnt how to wheel and deal so well that he arranged for the sale of $300,000 worth of tyres to the Panamanian government.

He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War and, at the end of the war, married a Canadian and settled in San Francisco. There he became engaged in a series of small-time business ventures that eventually landed him in possession of a failed manufacturer of parts for ball-point pens. Taking advantage of an improved new ink, Frawley turned the company into Paper Mate.

By extolling the Paper Mate pen's leak-proof properties, the company became a runaway success and in 1955, aged 32, Frawley sold it to Gillette for $15.1m.

New opportunity presented itself in the form of Eversharp Inc, makers of Schick razors, and Technicolor Inc, a Los Angeles-based film processing company. Although the latter company, which developed film-cartridge systems, failed, Schick's introduction of stainless-steel razor blades made it an industry giant.

Following Fidel Castro's Communist takeover of a Schick plant in Cuba in 1958, Frawley discovered that he was not simply an apolitical businessman, but an idealist. He became a stalwart of the American right, financing an array of conservative organisations. Once, when ABC News broadcast a documentary in which Alger Hiss attacked Richard Nixon, Frawley tried to cancel $3m worth of scheduled Schick advertising. However, the network declined to let him out of the contract.

A man of obsessive enthusiasms, Frawley found the source of his next crusade closer to home, in his own alcoholism. While attending the Shadel Hospital in Seattle to treat his drinking problem, he became so enamoured of its negative- reinforcement therapy programme that he bought the hospital for Schick, and renamed it Schick Shadel.

After he sold Schick to Warner Lambert in 1970, he retained the hospital for himself. He expanded it into a flourishing chain of treatment centres until a squeeze on medical insurance in the late 1980s forced a sharp retrenchment.

But Frawley was also doing well with his personal property investments. In the 1950s he had moved into Bing Crosby's old house on South Mapleton Drive in Los Angeles and in 1984 sold the house to the television producer Aaron Spelling for $10.25m. Four years later, he sold a smaller place across the street for $11m.

Patrick J. Frawley, businessman: born Len, Nicaragua 1923; married (two sons, five daughters); died Santa Monica, California 3 November 1998.