H. Mitchell D’Olier
President and Chief Executive Officer Kaneohe Ranch, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation
When Mitch D’Olier became chief executive officer of Victoria Ward Ltd. in 1993, he took one look at Kakaako and envisioned an entertainment zone, complemented by posh retail outlets and luxury condominiums. The concept was radical, because Kakaako at the time was just a sleepy industrial town with mere pockets of activity.
Today, Kakaako resembles D’Olier’s original blueprints. The Victoria Ward property comprises 3 million square feet of retail and entertainment space encompassing Ward Warehouse, Ward Gateway Center, Ward Village Shops, Ward Farmers Market, Ward Centre and the Ward theater complex.
The Kakaako development also caught the attention of Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. (NYSE:GGP), the owner of Ala Moana Center. In May 2002, General Growth purchased 65 acres of Victoria Ward Ltd. for $250 million. “I credit him with having the foresight and wherewithal to complete that project,” says Jan Yokota, executive director for the Hawaii Community Development Authority. “It has changed the community for the better.”
Without a doubt, D’Olier is one of Hawaii’s most powerful, influential people. He is a visionary, a natural-born leader who draws businesses, politicians and community leaders together and persuades them to see eye-to-eye. “With the support of the family that owned Victoria Ward, and the board of directors, we put the money where Mitch’s mouth was,” says Jeff Dinsmore, the new chief executive officer of Victoria Ward, who replaced D’Olier in the summer of 2002. “We invested in excess of $100 million to develop the property. If people weren’t willing to invest in their own property to make it better, nobody else was going to do that for you,” Dinsmore says. “Mitch made stuff happen. He comes up with the vision, and we help execute it.”
D’Olier’s influence goes beyond the boundaries of Kakaako. While developing the project, he and his team convinced U.S. mainland tenants, such as Dave & Busters and Nordstrom, to open branches at the Ward complex.
D’Olier left Victoria Ward Ltd. in July 2002 and became the president and chief executive of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Kaneohe Ranch Co., a major landowner in Kailua. He also has dreams for this residential beach town on the Windward side.
But he’s not all business. The community- and civic-minded D’Olier has worked through many organizations to create change. In addition to Castle Foundation’s charitable organization, D’Olier also serves as chairman of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, a high-powered group of chief executive officers and senior leaders of companies in Hawaii, representing more than 67,000 employees and $12.8 billion in annual revenues. Over the past year, D’Olier has led the group in its commitment to public education – in the form of mentorship programs, such as the Just for Kids, Adopt-A-School and the Principals’ Leadership Academy.
What makes this powerbroker so powerful? The ability to visualize? The ability to persuade? None of that, says D’Olier. He has his own simple formula: He listens. “Listening is a lost art,” he says. “We’re in a society where we are all at this breakneck speed. We need to really listen to each other.” No doubt, when Kailua community members talk, he will be listening.
-Cathy S. Cruz