The unique statue, dubbed the Maltese Eagle or Golden Eagle, was commissioned by Ron Shore after a brush with death inspired him to reconsider his priorities. It is made with 10, 14 and 18 karat gold and encrusted with 763 brilliant cut diamonds. At its base shines the Atocha Star emerald, salvaged from a famous 17th century shipwreck.
The eagle was originally the centerpiece for “The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt: Quest for the Golden Eagle,” a campaign launched in conjunction with a series of books and events to raise money for cancer research. But the project never took off, and Shore was planning to sell the eagle when it was stolen.
He mortgaged his house, spent his savings and took out loans to get the sculpture made, according to the eagle’s website. But now he says his future hangs in the balance.
“Without the eagle, I don’t have anything,” Shore told CNN.
As Shore told police, the thief approached him on Sunday night while he was loading his weighty possession into a vehicle. Beside him, a designated security person stood guard.
The assailant – or were there two? – came upon Shore, and a struggle ensued. At last the thief wrested the item from Shore, leaving him injured and empty-handed on a street in Delta, British Columbia, Shore said.
The robbery ended as quickly as it began. The details, about which authorities have been tight-lipped, remain murky. What’s clear is that Shore, a telecommunications executive, says he no longer has the item most precious to him: a diamond-encrusted solid gold eagle sculpture worth millions.
As president of the Hunt for the Cause Foundation, Shore has told his eagle’s origin story several times over.
It started with a birth, a death and a near-death.
In 2004, Shore wrote on his website, his pregnant sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. The doctors gave her a heartbreaking choice: either undergo treatment to save yourself or skip treatment to save your baby.
She chose the baby. Two days after giving birth, Shore said, his sister-in-law passed away.
Shore would later have his own run-in with mortality, he told CNN, when a drunk driver going 100 mph crashed into his car.
“As I was lying in the hospital bed I was thinking, what had my life really stood for?” he said. “I thought the bulk of my life had been selfish and I had not given back to the community enough.”
Shore’s website, on which he declares himself “The Ultimate Treasure Hunter,” includes a timeline of his escapades, from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 1986 to cycling across Canada in 1992 to receiving the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for public service in 2002.
Since 1993, Shore has been the president of a telecommunications company in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Despite this business experience, Shore has yet to accomplish his longtime goal of appearing on “The Apprentice,” a reality show previously starring now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“One of my biggest passions in life was to get on to the show ‘The Apprentice,'” Shore said on his website. “To get on to the show I auditioned eleven times and spent almost $30,000.”
The lengths Shore went to were great. He reportedly traveled nearly 8,000 miles – to San Antonio, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Idaho and Seattle – to attend a series of “Apprentice” auditions that never bore fruit. At one audition, he hired 10 actors to play his groupies, he said. He also mailed an 8-foot-long poster with his picture and about 100 signatures supporting him to Mark Burnett Productions.
Reality TV ambitions aside, Shore said he then channeled most of his energies into writing and executing “The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt,” which was modeled after his MBA thesis. The idea was that those who bought the books could solve puzzles that led to real prizes, like silver eagle statues or the Golden Eagle itself. (The website states that Shore could choose to award the victor $1 million instead of the eagle, which is valued at least $5 million.) Proceeds would go to breast cancer charities.
The process of creating the eagle – gathering its many elements and getting it made – took four years. It was sculpted by British Columbia-based artist Kevin Peters, whose wife is a cancer survivor. The project took Peters 4,000 hours of work, the CBC reported.
The treasure hunt books never sold very well. According to CNN, Shore had hoped to raise $100 million but has only earned $15,000 since 2010. Recently, he’d turned to displaying the eagle at art events in the hopes of attracting the eye of a generous buyer. He told Delta police that he was transporting the eagle after four days of display at the Art! Vancouver exhibition when the robbery occurred.
“I struggled as hard as I could yet was unable to prevent the robbery,” Shore said in a statement. Citing the ongoing investigation, he has not given much information beyond that.
A statement from Delta police likewise said the robbery investigation is in its early stages, and authorities “are working with victims and witnesses to establish exactly what happened and confirmation of suspect descriptions prior to any further details being released.”
Though Shore is hopeful that the eagle will be found, Peters fears that the thief may have fled the country or had the sculpture “melted down.”
Meanwhile, amateur sleuths (and treasure-hunters) are left to mull the confounding snippets of information that have emerged in the past few days.
Pastor Andreas Basson of Ladner’s Pneuma Church told Canada’s National Post that the robbery took place after a concert held at the church, at which Shore reportedly made known that he was carrying a valuable item in his backpack.
“He says he came from a Vancouver art gallery, and has a piece of art in his backpack,” Jim Murphy, who says he spoke to Shore that night, told the Canadian TV channel CTV.
Speaking to CTV, Murphy would not confirm whether the eagle was insured. He said he is always accompanied by a security person, and the night of the theft was no exception.
According to the National Post, security concerns around the eagle are what dissuaded several would-be buyers. In 2010, Shore and the eagle had to be accompanied to an event by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police because they were potential targets for organized crime.
It is not clear what Shore’s security person was doing at the time of the robbery, nor have the police offered a firm count of how many assailants there were.
A mother told the National Post that she was walking with her daughter on Sunday night when they saw two men beating Shore and running off with his backpack. Shore told the National Post that he was taken to the hospital for injuries which left him “extremely sore.”
“It was extremely traumatic, basically something out of a movie scene,” Shore told the Canadian Press. “It was crazy.”
And just like that, the golden eagle – “Ten years of my life’s work,” Shore told CTV – was gone.