CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
"To see your sons step up in manhood to take on the challenges and responsibility and take an idea that maybe I had but they bring it to fruition and improve on it, that's the greatest pride a father could have."
Developer Brian Anderson
With twin sons, Cord, middle, and Brad, left. They run Anekona LLC, which owns the Ilikai hotel.
CLICK FOR LARGE
Andersons tackle Ilikai renovation
The Anderson twins have joined their dad as third-generation developers in Hawaii
Big Island developer Brian Anderson and his 26-year-old twin sons Brad and Cord -- now part of the family business -- are taking on their biggest challenge to date: the $60 million redevelopment of the iconic Ilikai hotel in Waikiki.
Anderson's company, Anekona LLC
, bought the circa-1964 hotel last year for $218 million and are now repositioning the Ilikai -- once a backdrop for the 1960s television series "Hawaii Five-O" -- into an upscale property. The Andersons also are renovating other hotels on the neighbor islands.
Brian and his sons are following in the footsteps of his father, former politician and businessman D.G. "Andy" Anderson, who has run a number of successful businesses over the past few decades.
A knack for sarcasm, business acumen and passion extends throughout the three generations of Andersons, who have made a name for themselves in Hawaii's business community.
Twenty-six-year-old twins Brad and Cord Anderson up until two years ago shared a car and room, and now are sharing in the family business.
The sons of Big Island developer Brian Anderson and grandsons of former politician and businessman D.G. "Andy" Anderson are facing their biggest challenge to date: the $60 million redevelopment of the iconic, circa-1964 Ilikai hotel, once a backdrop for the popular 1960s television series "Hawaii Five-O."
"For 20 years, I've been like a one-man band so I have no idea how to work with people," said Brian, referring to his first team of managers at the Ilikai, which include his sons.
Brian, who bought the Ilikai for $218 million last year, recruited the twins into the family business three months after they graduated in June 2003 from Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.
"They didn't have a choice, the market was hot and I was buried," Brian said. "The first two months were great; they used to listen."
Since 2001, Brian -- the low-key Waimea cowboy, who prefers being out of the spotlight -- has spent about $370 million to acquire more than a half-dozen hotels on Oahu and the neighbor islands. He's invested another $116 million to renovate and convert many of the properties into wholly-owned condominiums for hotel use, or so-called condotels.
Far from his home on the range, the Big Island paniolo, along with Brad and Cord, who live on Oahu with their grandfather, Andy, are in the midst of transforming one of Waikiki's most well-known properties into a luxury hotel, following the recent trend among hoteliers to target a more affluent clientele.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Big Island developer Brian Anderson, middle, with twin sons, Cord, left, and Brad, stand on the bridge that overlooks the Ilikai hotel. They run Anekona LLC, which is renovating the property. CLICK FOR LARGE
Sitting behind a round meeting table amid a backdrop of construction outside the windows of the Andersons' second-floor office in the Ilikai, they jokingly jab at each other about everything from dad's paniolo-style aloha shirt and Wrangler jeans to the 6-foot-4 twins' dating habits.
A knack for sarcasm extends throughout the family, even at their weekly discussions revolving around serious business decisions.
"It's a lecture, not a discussion, though every now and then we sway him," said Cord, referring to the decision-making forums in which everyone has a vote, though Brian holds the trump card.
The group is working on a number of projects aside from the Ilikai, including a $16 million renovation of the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort and a $7 million remodeling of the Aloha Beach Resort.
Brian typically handles negotiations for the various properties, Cord is responsible for overseeing design and construction at the Ilikai, and Brad heads renovations of the neighbor island properties.
A typical workday is from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. though business is always at top of mind, even across the family dinner table and while on vacation.
On their most recent family vacation to Tanzania last February, Brian rented a satellite phone to make sure he was connected to his projects.
"We always talk shop," Brian said. "When you owe as much money as I do, it's all business."
The Andersons' hard-core work ethic was instilled long before the twins were born. Andy, the gregarious former politician who owns the upscale John Dominis Restaurant in Kakaako and Michel's at Waikiki's Colony Surf, still advises Brian and the twins on business decisions, though he isn't a part of their development company, Anekona LLC.
"I'm only the grandfather adviser when they get into trouble -- I sit back and criticize," Andy said, describing himself as the sounding board and advocate who asks a thousand questions to make sure Brian and his grandsons rethink business strategies before making a decision.
Brian acquired his business skills when he was put to work at age 13, helping his father during summer vacations pack orders and do deliveries at the family's business, Anderson Camera.
With the help of his father, he started his first business -- Hawaii Ranch and Farm Supply in Waimea -- and later branched off on his own to build subdivisions and acquire hotels.
"Brian's been surrounded by business all his life, so he grew up in that environment," Andy said. "It's only natural for him to gravitate toward it. That's all we would talk about at the dinner and breakfast table -- he was always exposed to the stresses."
Both Brian and Andy know what it's like to start with nothing and build a business from scratch. Andy, a high school dropout, struggled to make ends meet working seven days a week when he first started Anderson Camera. With no money for a baby sitter, he would haul his two young children to the office and taught them the value of hard work through years of building various businesses while juggling a political career.
"Brian worked summers, holidays -- they've worked all their life," he said.
The same is true for the twins, whom Brian put to work during summer breaks from college at a friend's construction company and as busboys at John Dominis.
"We weren't born with silver spoons in our mouths," Cord said, adding that they don't have a strong desire to work for anyone else.
Brian, who says he is extremely hard and critical on his sons, often expects more from them than from other employees.
"It's tough and I know there's a lot of days they walk out of here probably cussing me," he said. "On the flip side ... to see your sons step up in manhood to take on the challenges and responsibility and take an idea that maybe I had but they bring it to fruition and improve on it, that's the greatest pride a father could have."
Though the fast-growing business puts extreme pressure on the family and consumes their lives, Brian says he wouldn't have it any other way.
That value and a shared passion for business, passed down over three generations, is what has enabled the family to run and build on successful companies over the past few decades.
"We're three generations of all independent know-it-alls," Andy said. "We kind of run our own shows. You always try to leave the next generation better off -- hopefully Brian's better off than I am and hopefully the kids are better off than him."