Ian has been described as a visionary and a risk taker. As his legal counsel, would you agree?
I don’t think Ian is unaware of the risk. And when you talk about the big picture stuff, he’s certainly a big picture guy. He has these great schemes and I don’t want to say they’re grandiose because that makes him sound like a lunatic and he’s not that, but he really does have a pretty good handle on the very big picture. However, Ian’s aware of a whole lot more detail than perhaps he lets on and this is to his extreme credit. He’s not a dumb guy and while he may not be worried about the detail when he thinks about the grand picture, as details get presented he wants to know about them. Even if he doesn’t come across that way, he wants to know about them.
So, when it comes to deals, because he’s aware of the details, he’s also aware of what he can give away at the end of the day, those things that aren’t going to affect his overall big picture. I remember telling him once that most of the clients I act for wouldn’t give away the kitchen sink, like he just did and his response was, “Well, maybe that’s why I get all the deals and they don’t.”
I have no hesitation in saying that Ian spends more time on the design side of things than anyone I know in the business. He wants to make each project a statement, a reﬂection of himself or a reﬂection of something a whole lot better than concrete, glass and steel. He takes pride in the design of what he’s produced. You only have to go and look at the shopping centres to see this. Just have a look at the light standards. Nobody pays any attention to those normally, but Ian is determined that things are going to look a certain way. That’s why there are paving stones in the parking lots instead of asphalt. Sure it costs a few more bucks, but that’s okay because it gets him to the next deal.
Some people have said he is lucky.
Yes, I’ve heard that the ﬁrst time Ian went golﬁng he got a hole in one. He quit golf and never went back. Now that’s just luck. But the luck he makes on the other stuff is the luck he makes. It’s like that old line people say about goalies and hockey players you’ve got to be good to be lucky. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.
What’s it like behind the scenes at Westbank?
Ian has an amazing amount of commitment from his team. It’s pretty intense what they’re doing and it’s almost like what you read about in the Google offices of the world. They’re sort of like those software developers who just work all the time because they’re totally into it. The people at the ﬁrm have a fair degree of freedom to screw up and that makes them very happy. If you consider the evolution of the place, Ian has managed to surround himself with people who really know what they’re doing. I mean look at Judy – he’d be totally lost without her.
Does Ian always listen to your advice?
Well no, I tried to talk him out of Woodward’s, for example. The guys before Ian had tied it up for 14 months and we were sitting in meetings with representatives from the east side and BC Housing Society and the City and all these pulling demands and at one point I pulled Ian aside and said to him Don’t do it. This project has killed more developers than bullets.
But he said, “Nah, it will be good.”
He has the ability to work with that community and he did it on a fairly personal level, getting everyone on side and making it work, so you’ve got to hand it to him.
Ian is not conniving about what he’s doing; he’s very genuine guy. Some of these projects are four years long. They’re investments in time and commitment and you have to have the ability to not get bored with your projects. When he gets an idea, he’s like a kid – he gets all excited about it.
That’s just the way he is.