In everyone’s best interests to lend a hand
Philanthropist prefers to improve on potential rather than criticize and downsize
This is the third in a series of four stories highlighting this year’s inductees to the Cape Breton Business and Philanthropy Hall of Fame.
Poor service from a now closed hospital that may have contributed to his mother’s early death could have left Lou Maroun embittered.
Instead, the international real estate investor and philanthropist drew from that tragic experience to become one of the present facility’s biggest donors.
“Without going into the details, she would have lived many more years if the hospital at that time, had been a quality facility. It was not, and she died as a result. But while one response might have been a lawsuit against the hospital, my brothers and I chose not to follow that route,” said Maroun in a recent email interview from his present home in Devonshire, Bermuda.
Instead, when the late Irving Schwartz approached him years later to aid the present
facility, Maroun and his wife Kathryn decided to help, in memory of his mother. They paid for the renovation of the waiting room that has been named for his parents.
Maroun has also given generously to many organizations and institutions over the years, including Cape Breton University, even though he never attended the institution. He is currently working to raise more than $600,000 for the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies.
“But I always saw it as a vital Cape Breton institution and when my dear friend Joe Shannon asked me to participate on the board, I simply could not refuse,” says Maroun. “And I am a true believer in the value of education. It almost sounds like a ‘throw away’ cliché, but we ignore education at the peril to our culture, society and economy.”
Maroun is one of four Cape Bretoners who will be inducted into the Cape Breton Business and Philanthropy Hall of Fame on May 23 along with Dave Gillis and Joe Braunmiller for business and Father Albert Maroun for philanthropy. Lou Maroun will also be inducted for philanthropy.
Choosing to promote the potential instead of fixating on the bad could be the secret behind Maroun’s success. Of course, a solid work ethic and attention to detail helps too. Maroun discovered early that he doesn’t mind working long days and he doesn’t like being told what to do — two prerequisites for success in business.
“Many of my family and relatives were business people,” says Maroun.
Other influences included Cape Breton business legends Joe Shannon and Harold and Irving Schwartz.
“What stands out about each one is not just their success in business but most importantly, the fact that they achieved success without causing damage to other people. And each of them has or had contributed significantly back to their communities. Business people who achieve success by trampling over others to get there are failures in my mind.”
After university, Maroun worked with the Nova Scotia Attorney General’s Department in probation services for about seven years. He might be best known locally for opening the Split Crow in 1979, a popular pub. He moved over to Roycom
Realty afterwards where he was involved in commercial sales, property management, leasing and real estate investment advising. He was later involved with Summit REIT, a real estate investment trust where he was CEO from 2002 until 2006. It grew to be one of the largest real estate investment trusts in Canada and was the country’s largest publicly owned industrial landlords with about $3.5 billion in assets. He then moved on to ING Real Estate Canada where he was executive chairman, real estate advisor and asset manager until 2009. Then he founded Sigma Real Estate Advisors/Sigma Capital Corporation which specializes in international real estate advice. He is currently the chairman. Over his career he has been involved in billions of dollars of real estate transactions.
“I did theoretically retire in 2008 when we moved to Bermuda (he and his wife Kathryn) although in reality I lasted about two or three weeks before I set up a new business which is the current Sigma Real Estate Advisors Limited.”
In addition to his full work schedule, he is involved in many charities and he has served on the boards of numerous companies and agencies.
In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, sailing, scuba diving and fly-fishing, an interest he shares with his wife Kathryn, a professional angler.
He has two sons from his first marriage who live with their families in North and South Carolina.