Jul

14

Jack PooleA former partner of my dad's, and a family friend, Jack Poole, recently passed away. He was chairman of 2010 olympics but far beyond that. He has an amazing story really. Below, a solid excerpt of motivation. The entire article is worth a read.

In the beginning, Daon built housing in resource towns from Prince Rupert to Port Alice. The story goes that Poole's company hired a young worker named Gordon Campbell as a general labourer on a housing project at Babine Lake. The one-day premier was paid $2.84 an hour for his first real job. Years later Campbell would be instrumental in choosing Poole as chairman of the Olympic operation, leading the two friends to joke that Jack Poole gave Gordon Campbell his first job and Gordon Campbell gave Jack Poole his last.

Daon eventually became a development empire with 900 employees, five offices in Canada and nine in the U.S. The company built tens of thousands of homes in both countries and acquired tens of thousands of rental apartments it converted to condominium ownership. It also developed several million square feet of office, retail and commercial space.

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The spectacular rise and equally stunning fall of Daon is one of the most celebrated stories in Canadian business history. And there is nothing quite like hearing it told by the person who was at the centre of it. He could take the story on tour. In fact, in 1984 he gave a presentation in Toronto to the Urban Development Institute on what happened that those in attendance still talk about, so open and honest was Poole about the travails of the company and the personal impact it had on him.The abridged version goes something like this: Big development company borrows billions to build projects throughout North America. And then interest rates begin climbing to unforeseen levels. "We built the company on debt," says Poole. "We were extremely successful but had not factored into our plans the recession of 1982 and interest rates of 23 per cent. Business stopped. You couldn't sell anything and we owed $2.3 billion to 47 banks and couldn't pay the interest."
Poole was, understandably, a mess. His predicament was making him physically ill. The meetings with the banks were often loud and angry. "One meeting it was getting pretty rough and nasty," Poole recalls. "And at one point they're making it pretty clear; it's like, 'You know we're going to put you under on Monday, don't you?' And I remember saying, 'Look, I grew up in a little town in Saskatchewan. I didn't have electricity until I was 17. No running water. I came from nothing. And I can go back to that. I can. But if you want me to stay and work this thing through, I will. If you don't, I'm happy to leave. But don't threaten me.'"

After that, the whole mood in the room changed, Poole remembers. Any time things got hostile in subsequent meetings, Poole's lawyer, Ken Levanthol, would take him aside and say, "Tell them the 'no electricity' story again."


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