REAL ESTATE PROFILE
Q&A with John Marcovecchio
Montreal-born John Marcovecchio, president and CEO of Magil Construction, is a soft-spoken man of few words. His parents emigrated here, from Italy, in the late 1950s and settled in Little Italy. When John was a baby they moved to the Petite-Patrie district and to St-Léonard when he was a preteen. He loved going to work with his father, who was a backhoe operator. His mom raised John and his two younger siblings and worked from home as a seamstress. After graduating from Laurier-McDonald High, John Marcovecchio went into civil engineering technology at Dawson College —a co-op program that took him to the tar sands of Fort McMurray, Alta. We met at Magil’s Montreal office.
What happened when you returned from out west?
I completed my program at Dawson and got a job as an estimator for S.A. Armstrong — a mechanical supply firm specializing in pumps and heat exchangers. I enjoyed it, but after a few years decided to return to school. I did a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Concordia University, graduating in 1986. Later that year, I landed a job as site engineer with Magil Construction.
Can you explain the relationship between a developer and builder?
A real estate developer acquires land, has a vision for the space and hires an architect to create a design. Then they engage the services of a construction company, like Magil, to build it. Unlike public bids, where the lowest proposal from a qualified bidder gets the job, private contracts are assigned based on relationships and a builder’s track record for completing jobs to specification, within a predetermined budget and time frame.
How has your career evolved?
In my first position, as a site engineer, I spent my days on construction sites ensuring that the plans were being implemented as designed. I was also a liaison between the workers and management, so communication was key. Within two years, I was named project manager. I was just 26 but had people reporting to me and was accountable for the completion of projects. Two years later I was promoted to vice-president of construction and a few years later (1994), I became executive VP and was in charge of the whole company.
What happened next?
In 1997, an opportunity arose to buy into the company; I became co-owner and president. In the late 1990s, there was a boom in residential development. We got contracts to build condos, including a half dozen on Nuns’ Island, many in downtown Montreal, the east end, west end, Laval and South Shore. In 2009, Fayolle Canada made an offer to buy Magil and we accepted. I stayed on as president and CEO. With their support, in 2010, we began expanding across Canada. Magil now has offices in Vancouver; London, Ont.; and Toronto. I was involved in this endeavour. A couple of years ago we started an international division, which I oversee as well. We have projects in Cameroon, Africa and the Dominican Republic.
What are Magil’s current residential projects in Montreal?
We have quite a quite a few: YUL & QuinzeCent (with Groupe Brivia); Roccabella (MC Finance); Le Drummond (Samcon); Le Bourbon (MSC Investments); Le Gabriel (Groupe Gabriel); Symphonia Pop (Westcliff); and CentraCondos (CentraCondos Group). It’s a busy and exciting time with all of these extraordinary developments in the works.
And when you are not working ?
My wife, Silvana, and I have two kids — Eric, 36 and Ivana, 28. We also have two grandchildren, 4½ and 2½. We have fun with them on weekends and try not to spoil them too much. I have dinner with my parents every Thursday evening. A leisure activity I enjoy very much is playing poker — specifically Texas hold’em. The game is very strategic, like business. Despite the similarities, poker is a stress-reliever for me. When I’m playing, it’s like I am in a bubble and everything inside it is plain and simple.
What puts the spring in your step?
My passion for building began when I was a child going to work with my dad. I loved watching the big machinery digging holes. Playing in the dirt planted a seed in me which took hold and grew into a love for this business. It feels amazing to begin with an idea, on paper, and transform it into something tangible. Whenever I walk around Montreal with friends I can’t help but point out this building or that, which Magil built, and feel a great sense of pride. Something else that makes my hard work worthwhile is giving back through organizations that have special meaning to me. I contribute to many causes and sit on a few boards; Centraide, the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society and Muscular Dystrophy Canada. These words, spoken by Winston Churchill, resonate with me: “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”