Thursday, April 12, 2012

PavCo loses another director

Will the last person left please turn out the floodlights?

Another director has left the board of B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the taxpayer-owned company that operates B.C. Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Peter Brown's February departure wasn't confirmed until March. The Howe Street tycoon, Order of B.C. recipient and Liberal bagman (right) claimed he wants to slow down, but the real reason was his disgust over Premier Christy Clark turning down the $35 million to $40 million B.C. Place Stadium naming rights deal with Telus.

Now joining Brown on the outside-looking-in is Derek Brindle. Brindle (below) is a lawyer with the Vancouver firm Singleton Urquhart, has a Queen's Counsel designation, and his bio states he "acts as an arbitrator and in mediations involving construction and insurance disputes. Derek advises Crown institutions and industry on risk mitigation strategies in major procurement."

UPDATE: 8:33 p.m. April 12

PavCo chairman David Podmore has emailed me this statement:

"Derek left the board in February 2012.

"He joined the Board at my invitation in 2007 to be available to provide construction legal expertise as PavCo proceeded through completion of the VCC West expansion and the BC Place Refurbishment.

"With completion of both major construction efforts PavCo is moving to a focus on business development to ensure that the business potential of these assets (VCC West, VCC East, and BC Place) are maximized, consequentially the business focus will gradually shift away from construction and more emphasis will be placed in sales and marketing as well as operations.

"Derek's advice and expertise has been most helpful through the past years where the focus has been on completion of the new facilities and the BC Place upgrade.

"Derek has been exceptionally helpful through these stages, and has resigned to allow PavCo to move to the next stage where the focus must be on business development to maximize utilization of these exceptional assets which he helped deliver, and recruit the Directors that will have the appropriate expertise to provide the guidance and advice to maximize the utilization of the exceptional facilities created during Derek' s participation on the PavCo Board."

UPDATE: 10 a.m. April 13

Brindle responded to my phone message via email:

"I resigned in February after nearly 5 years on the Board.

"I initially joined at the Chair's invitation as someone with experience and interest in construction. My preferred area of practice was, and is, in construction law. It was not my intention to overstay the construction projects to be undertaken.

"After the completion of the final construction project near the end of 2011, it was timely to move off the Board to allow for an orderly transition and focus on marketing and operations.

"Any further questions can be directed to Pavco."

UPDATE: 12:41 p.m. April 13

Here is the response when I asked if Brindle might have a few minutes to answer questions about whether his departure from the board was affected by the government-nixed Telus naming rights deal and the lawsuit by two roof contractors:

"Thank you, however, I have nothing further to add to my earlier e-mail response to your questions."

Questions persist, I say. Why no public announcement of Brown and Brindle's departures? Can one call it an "orderly transition" when there is no immediate replacement for directors who leave before the May 27 end-of-term? Why do taxpayers have to wait until a reporter gets a tip?

PavCo, coincidentally, is one of the parties named in a $6.5 million lawsuit filed by steel cable installer Freyssinet. Steel contractor Canam Group filed a $26.15 million countersuit against Freyssinet. The messy dispute, which may ultimately tell the story of this difficult renovation, could be settled in a marathon court trial to begin in October 2013.

We still have no update on the cost of the B.C. Place renovations, which were budgeted at $563 million. The government is not likely to tell us the truth while it's contesting by-elections in Port Moody and Chilliwack, for fear of losing two seats in the Legislature.

Furlong: white toques to Whitecaps

It seems Vancouver Whitecaps chief executive Paul Barber's chair was barely cold when the ownership group began thinking of re-filling it.

The media had been told that president Bob Lenarduzzi and chief operating officer Rachel Lewis would run the Major League Soccer franchise as a duo since the former Tottenham Hotspur executive announced his shock resignation on Dec. 9, 2011. Barber worked his last day on Feb. 29. (Sources told me Barber was frustrated that his decision-making authority fell victim to principal owner Greg Kerfoot's micromanaging.)

On April 12, part-owner Jeff Mallett surprised the gathered media at the Hyatt Regency Hotel by introducing John Furlong, the chief executive of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics organizing committee, as the club's new executive chairman. Lenarduzzi and Lewis will report to Furlong. Furlong, who served VANOC at the pleasure of Premier Gordon Campbell, will report weekly to Kerfoot, the mysterious, media-shy West Vancouver tech tycoon.

Furlong told the media the idea was hatched at a dinner with Kerfoot about six weeks earlier. The job is a full-time gig, without an equity stake in the company, that includes a desk on the same floor in Gastown's Landing where he led the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation and its successor, VANOC, after the International Olympic Committee chose Vancouver in 2003 to host the 21st Olympic Winter Games.

Irish-born, 61-year-old Furlong chairs the Own the Podium advisory board, is a director of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings and was recently promoted to chairman of the Rocky Mountaineer Railtours' board (more about that below). The Whitecaps' gig gets precedence for Furlong, who did not receive
any IOC or Canadian Olympic Committee appointment after the 2010 Games.

Furlong, who grew up playing centreback, professes a lifelong love for the beautiful game. He recounted how he thrilled he was to watch England's 1966 World Cup win live on TV. He may owe a small debt of gratitude to the world's most powerful soccer executive for helping Vancouver get the Games.

In the following excerpt from his 2011-published memoir, Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics that Changed a Country (Douglas & McIntyre), Furlong revealed details about the 2002 night he spent with FIFA president Sepp Blatter at VANOC founding chairman Jack Poole's ranch. (Many have called for Blatter to resign amid longstanding allegations of bribery and FIFA's reluctance to immediately implement recommendations from well-respected transparency expert Mark Pieth's Independent Governance Committee.)

The bid process could hardly be described as logical. Sometimes we sought out Hail Mary opportunities on the off-chance something might work out. Delegates were scattered all over the world, so face time with them as often hard to arrange. When we had an opportunity, we pounced it immediately. One such occasion occurred that August. Canada was hosting the women's U19 World Cup of soccer. Sepp Blatter, the iconic head of the International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA as it is commonly known, was in the country and, we were told, was going to be passing through Vancouver on his way to Edmonton, where the tournament was being held. Working with our friends at the Canadian Soccer Association, we arranged to squirrel him away for an evening to talk Olympics. Sepp was an IOC member and an influential one at that. We wanted to make an indelible impression on him. We decided this would be a night for Jack Poole and his wife, Darlene, to put on the ritz at their sprawling estate in Mission, a rural community 90 minutes east of Vancouver. The plan was to send a helicopter for Sepp and fly him to Jack's place, while showing off a little of the local geography at the same time.

We met Sepp when he touched down on the estate's landing pad. Yes, Jack had his own landing pad. The Pooles poured on the charm. The steak was brilliant and so was the apple pie. We had a great evening talking to one of the most influential sports kings in the world, who waxed eloquently about sport politics, including those that surrounded the IOC.

Sepp was in his element -- at the centre of attention with no pressure. I asked him at one point what his vision was for the game of soccer. "I will not be satisfied until every child on the planet owns a soccer ball," he said. And he meant it. Sepp was a formidable man, short and stocky and with an imposing face, who seemed to dominate his surroundings the way someone much bigger might. By the end of the night we were friends. As always, we didn't ask for Sepp's vote but we were all smiles when he told us we could count on him.

(Media scrum video courtesy SendtoNews/Whitecaps).

For the record: Vancouver hosted the North American Soccer League's last single-game Soccer Bowl in 1983 at B.C. Place Stadium between the Tulsa Roughnecks and Toronto Blizzard. The NASL championship was contested one more time in 1984 in a best-of-three format between the Chicago Sting and Toronto. The Sting swept the Blizzard in two games, winning the trophy in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Furlong opted not to comment on the ongoing labour dispute between Rocky Mountaineer and its unionized on-board attendants from Teamsters local 31. This, despite being the chairman of the upscale tourist train company's board.

"You need to talk to Randy (Powell, president) about that, that's how we've chosen to do it," Furlong said. "I think this is an ongoing dispute and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk."

Workers were locked out last June and the company intends to continue using replacements. The company also chopped limbs off trees on adjacent public land, but claims it was a mistake.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spreading the word

Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics by Bob Mackin has scored wider distribution.

The e-book about how the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics came and went is now available from the Sony Reader Store, Kobo, Diesel and Barnes & Noble.

Or you can go direct to Smashwords via the official website,

Wherever you buy it, the price is still just $8.99.

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