Sacha McLean

Forty Under 40 winner 2014:  President and CEO, McLean Ventures; vice-chairman, McLean Group of Companies

“I joined the family business for the wrong reasons, and I stayed because I wanted to,” said Sacha McLean, president and CEO of the company that bears his name, McLean Ventures.

With his father facing a major heart issue and his brother at law school, McLean’s initiation into the family business was “a freak of nature” at the young age of 21.

“It was a tough couple of years just trying to get my bearings and find my way and find my feet. But I was able to come up with some interesting ideas in terms of what direction we could take the business.”

Those ideas have transformed what was wholly a real estate and development business into a vertically integrated organization with divisions in aviation, real estate, construction and film. The largest business under the McLean Group of Companies – of which McLean is vice-chairman – is Vancouver Film Studios (VFS).

A big player in the development of Hollywood North, VFS has helped lure major productions to B.C., including X-Men 3, 2012 and Fringe. It saw so much success, the company ran out of space.

So McLean turned to building content and, this fall, sold his first show: a reality series based on the company’s helicopter business. A self-professed “bricks-and-mortar guy,” McLean said the shift from physical to creative building has come with challenges but was the only way to go.

“It’s been a huge learning experience, but the thing about being an entrepreneur is that you have to learn this stuff, or you can’t take the business to the next level.”

As far as levels go, the McLean Group of 1999 and 2014 are “apples and oranges.” While the group still owns land – some one million square feet – it’s also developing a microbrewery, owns 22 helicopters and has expanded to employ 250 people full-time.

If the company’s ability to diversify and vertically integrate has kept it growing, it’s McLean who has kept it diversifying and integrating.

“I’m the differentiator, the guy that disturbs the normal way of thinking to take us to the next level.”