Clark Ivory: Building houses and a community

Disciplined approach delivers successful results

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

As a result, Ivory hired two employees to only help customers repair their credit, which means helping them manage their finances, pay bills on time, consolidate debt — a process that takes anywhere from a month to a couple of years. So far they have helped 100 families clean up their credit and buy homes. They also launched a program to help buyers lease their old homes when they are unable to sell them.

"When you don't have debt, and you're not having to put out fires constantly, then you can focus on more productive things like this," says Clark.

A few years ago Clark, still looking ahead, laid the groundwork for the company's next venture.

He began buying a variety of properties opportunistically and when he had enough of them he launched ICO Construction, the commercial arm of Ivory Homes. One of the first things he did was to sign former Harvard classmate Jim Seaberg, who was a partner at McKinsey & Co., as ICO's president. Seaberg had worked in the high tech field and invested in commercial real estate.

"Clark is a relationship-builder and he stayed in touch with me for 20 years," says Seaberg. "When I got here, I was able to build on the relationships he has built in the community and hone the strategy. He allows me total autonomy."

Under ICO is land development, construction and property management. Mostly what they will do is build apartments — some 10,000 of them in the next 20 years.

Commercial real estate is seven times more volatile than home building, but Seaberg is undaunted. "People who do it well tend to perform fine," he says.

Besides that, Clark and Seaberg reason that the sister companies will balance one another because the home-building and commercial real estate industries tend to be counter-cyclical — when one is down the other is up. Also, the commercial business partners nicely with the home-development side of the business, sharing construction and land-development expertise.

"We wanted to do something that is complementary to what Ivory Homes does," says Seaberg. "The rationale is that it is adjacent to what we know and it creates a base of home owners. All of them will be a resort-like experience with on-site amenities and the benefits of ownership without the things people don't like, such as yard maintenance. All of the apartments will be Class A quality, like Ivory homes. There is a permanent class of renter who likes the resort-like experience."

Gamvroulas believes that is the hallmark of Clark's career. "He's not just on the board; he participates and believes in what he's doing," says Gamvroulas. "When he does something he does it and puts himself into it."

Email: drob@desnews.com

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