By Vivian Moreau
Cluttered with empty boxes, there is no place to sit in the reception area to Hugh O’Reilly’s office at the end of a strip mall on Maui. Sales people walk back and forth talking loudly on cell phones, heading briefly outside to the 30 degree parking lot only to march quickly back inside. A techie kneels in front of a laptop that’s propped on a spare chair.
“Okay, try it now,” he says into a phone.
A fading wall poster with a photo collage that includes Whistler Village is the only indication this tattered beige office is an Intrawest operation. The place looks as if it’s just been moved into or being readied to vacate.
“How long have you been here?” I ask the receptionist. “Dunno,” she shrugs.
Anyone who thinks Hugh O’Reilly left his job as Whistler’s mayor for a cushy Intrawest job is dead wrong.
It takes O’Reilly 10 minutes to leave the phone call on which he’s drumming up interest in the $1.2 billion beachfront condominium project across the street. He immediately suggests we go for coffee at the opposite end of the strip mall that faces the 40-acre site Intrawest is developing with two other partners, Ledcor and J.P. Morgan. Right now the site is just a scraped patch of red earth with two silent cranes parked in the middle. Two jazzed up trailers house models for the two-stage project of 628 condos and 72 townhomes that start at U.S.$600,000 and top out at $5.5 million.
In Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip flops and tousled hair O’Reilly looks 10 years younger than 50. With a long, easy stride and tanned skin he could easily pass for a local, an endless surfer who came to Maui for the waves and never left. But he’s not. He’s Whistler’s former mayor who shocked the community a year ago, announcing he would not be guiding the town through to the Olympics and was instead moving to Maui, before his term was up, to sell condos for Intrawest. It was as if Captain Picard had said he was going over to the Borg.
But O’Reilly says it was time to leave. Not just because approaching 50 he and wife Patti felt a need for a change. Or because both their children had recently left home and the couple now had the freedom to head wherever they wanted.