“The hardest thing for me – and for my leadership team – is balancing out the needs of the community against the needs of the company that pay our salary.”
By Michel Beaudry
When it comes to the proverbial half-full or half-empty glass, Whistler Blackcomb’s Chief Operating Officer is definitely in the former camp. He’s convinced, for example, that the mountains’ new owners are in for the long haul. “Why would Fortress turn around and sell the jewel in their crown?” Dave Brownlie counters when I suggest W-B could soon be flipped. “Sure – there are properties in the overall package that are less appealing. But as far as I can tell, Fortress will be involved with Whistler-Blackcomb for a long time to come.”
On the subject of foreign ownership, the former accountant is just as bullish. He says being owned by an American investment firm is no big deal — it’s business as usual. “Nothing has really changed,” he says. “We went from being owned by public investors to being owned by private investors. It’s all about money management. Nothing more, nothing less.”
In fact, he adds, the new ownership could lead to greater opportunities for the resort. “These guys are in the business of raising capital. If we can present a compelling case to them for re-energising our product, I believe they’ll go out and find the money for us to do it.”
Still — it’s not like he sleeps well at night. “Sure I worry,” he admits. “I worry all the time. There’s no question — in times like this, the higher you are in the organization, the more exposed you are.”
But that’s not what really worries Brownlie. “I’m a resident here,” he says. “I’m bringing up a family here. I see my neighbours at the store or at the rink and on the mountain and I know how high the stakes are for them. The hardest thing for me — and for my leadership team — is balancing out the needs of the community against the needs of the company that pay our salary.” He smiles. “And that’s a very difficult balancing act to pull off successfully…”
That’s why he has to stay focused on the positive, he says. “ Look — that’s my job. I have 3,800 people in this valley looking to me for leadership and motivation. I’m not saying the future is going to be easy. Or that there’s not going to be some painful adjustments in the short term. But ultimately, I believe we can be successful. As long as we all work together, we can really make some cool things happen!”
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