Beyond The Bio: Bisnow's 16 Questions With Institutional Real Estate Manager Victor MacFarlane
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This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
MacFarlane Partners Chairman and CEO Victor MacFarlane pioneered the urban investment concept for institutional real estate managers in 1996. MacFarlane Partners, which he founded in 1987 to service institutional investors, exclusively focuses on urban revitalization, smart growth and sustainability in urban and high-density suburban submarkets of several gateway cities. His company has since invested $13B to launch its urban program. While MacFarlane Partners started in California markets like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, it has since expanded into New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
MacFarlane: I usually point to one or two of our well-known investments and say, “We develop or invest in buildings like that on behalf of institutional investors and ourselves.”
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
MacFarlane: I would likely be in private equity or venture capital. These industries have many similar elements of real estate development or investment. You can see something being created or grown from your efforts.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
MacFarlane: When I was in school, I once had a job cleaning pigpens. Of course, I also owned the pig.
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
MacFarlane: My first job in the industry was in Aetna’s real estate department, in 1979. In 1980, I bought an office building for $100M in Denver that Roy March brokered.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
MacFarlane: I view my biggest failure as losing the trust of a long-term investor and partner, such that they stopped listening to our recommendations versus those of others, leading to their detriment and mine.
Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?
MacFarlane: From an economic perspective, having enough income or wealth to take care of one’s family, health, illness and education with enough left over to enjoy one’s existence. From a professional level, being able to pursue one’s chosen profession with integrity, excellence and respect.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
MacFarlane: Shallow braggarts.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
MacFarlane: Early in my career, Rod Dimock, my boss at Aetna, had a profound impact on my career. He was a senior executive at my first professional [place of] employment. He saw something in me and helped to nurture that talent.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?
MacFarlane: The best — Over 30 years ago, my former brother-in-law, Frank Borges, then treasurer of the state of Connecticut, recommended that I enter the investment management business. I started my company in 1987.
The worst — The same guy telling me it would be easy; I entered the business way too undercapitalized.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
MacFarlane: My extended family. We take family trips to continue to enjoy our adult children, as well as our extended family of friends, and my wife’s nine sisters and their kids.
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
MacFarlane: NiNi’s in San Mateo, California. A third-generation restaurant known for its family atmosphere and great all-day breakfast. They are open only for breakfast and lunch.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
MacFarlane: The same thing my high school football coach told me: “If you write your girlfriend late at night, wait till the morning and reread the note. If you still want to send it, go ahead.”
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
MacFarlane: Risking it all to start and buy several businesses.
Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire?
MacFarlane: Doctors. After having a liver transplant and eventually sitting on a hospital board, I’ve seen the kind of life-altering work that is obviously done. The amount of work behind the scenes is staggering.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
MacFarlane: It varies. Sometimes it is about an investment decision, and sometimes it is just about how I am living my life — if I am doing all I can for my family and others.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
MacFarlane: My family, including my extended family. At the end of the day, that is what gives one’s life meaning.