CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
New Maui Land & Pineapple CEO David Cole has a background in both agriculture and resorts.
Maui Land & Pine
chief happy to be
back in Hawaii
The search for a president and CEO was an extensive one and was conducted over a period of several months. Why do you think you were selected for the position?
>> Position: President and chief executive officer of Maui Land & Pineapple Co.
>> Board posts: Chairman of Sunnyside Farms LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based supplier of organic foods and flowers; chairman of Twin Farms, a luxury resort in Barnard, Vt.
>> Education: B.A. in liberal studies from University of Hawaii in Manoa.
>> Family: Wife, Maggie; four children, ranging in ages from 22 to 33; two grandkids.
>> Age: 51
I think, partly, the board was looking for someone who had an appreciation for the unique activities of the company and its Hawaiian roots. So, somebody who wasn't new to Hawaii. I think part of the search criteria, in addition, was that they wanted someone with experience in resort development and who was also familiar with agriculture and with the issues you have to deal with to built a successful, diversified agricultural enterprise.
Why were you interested in the job?
Maggie (his wife) and I had reached the point in our lives where our youngest kids are now gone off to college and it was the window we were looking for to come home to the islands. My parents are still here and many of our dearest friends are here.
Maui Land & Pineapple is a company in transition with the divesting of Queen Kaahumanu Center and Napili Plaza, along with the emphasis on fresh pineapple and the de-emphasis of canned pineapple. How do you envision the Maui Land & Pineapple of the future?
The first thing we need to do is be clear in terms of our initial values and the characteristics that allowed this company to thrive. We need to get back in touch with a lot of those values -- a lot of those, I think, that Colin Cameron brought to life through Maui Land & Pineapple. We've started a process that involves a lot of the younger, more passionate, members of our community to really articulate the future of Maui Land & Pineapple and what it will look like. We have four teams. One is focused on community relations and communication. A second is looking at our resort and development business. A third is taking a deep dive and looking at our agricultural operations. And a fourth is a finance group, which actually follows the work of the other three teams, and it's really in service to the ambitions that are identified in the planning process of the other three teams.
How well do you know Hawaii native Steve Case, who you worked for at AOL and is the majority owner of Maui Land & Pineapple? Will he play a more prominent role in Maui Land & Pineapple going forward?
I had the pleasure of working with Steve for many years, starting with the sale to him of one of the companies I started, NaviSoft, back in the early '90s. That placed me in a position where I worked with him and other members of the AOL team during an exciting period for the group from 1994 through 1997. We've continued to work together on various projects as colleagues and investment partners since then. In terms of his involvement here at Maui Land & Pineapple, we'd like to have as much of his time as he can possibly give. But there's so many things he's working on, it's hard to get his time and attention. He's very interested, though, in making sure that investments he's made in Hawaii improve the quality of life in the community for the long term.
How far back to your Hawaii roots go?
I came here in elementary school and went to Aikahi Elementary School. I then went to Kailua Intermediate School and Kailua High School. For my senior year, I went to a small private school called Pacific Prep, which is no longer in business in Hawaii. From there, I went to the University of Hawaii in Manoa and got a degree from there in the mid-'70s.
Did any of your previous positions prepare you for this job?
I think it's probably been the whole enchilada. I'm 51, so I think it's taken me this long to appreciate the diversity of experiences I bring to any activity I focus on. But I would say in the case of Maui Land & Pineapple's current issues, it would be, first, my experience in helping to build executive teams, recruit, and motivate teams. And it would be my venture capital work over the years building new companies and funding companies. Second, my exposure to consumer products and thinking about how to develop good brands and good products for consumers. Third, I'd say my recent exposure to managing super premium resort properties. And finally, all the years I spent as a director of the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and others have taught me the value of integrating economic development with long-term conservation strategies.
Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org