Jacksonville Business Journal
November 5, 2007
Christian Conte, Staff Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Mark Farrell has a busy schedule: taking the kids to and from school each day, spending time with his mom and wife and coaching soccer.
Family is now his top priority, but there’s still plenty of time in the day to be productive in business, too, he said.
After taking eight months off, Farrell, the former CEO of The Vestcor Cos., has started a full-service boutique real estate company called Killashee Investments Inc.
It’s a business he describes as full-time, half-time.
“I’m a deal junkie. I love being a part of it,” the 49-year-old New York native said. “What I have to be cognizant of is not getting back to where I was. I’ve blocked out the next five years for my kids, and you can’t touch that.”
Owning his own business is new to Farrell after working at Vestcor for almost two decades. It was a priceless experience, he said, but he’s since found that there’s nothing like being his own boss.
“For the past 17 years, I had blinders on to multifamily,” he said. “Now the world is my oyster. There really is no barrier to what I can do. It’s really exciting.”
His new business differs from what he’s done for most of his career, but his career prepared him for it. A few years after graduating from James Madison University in Virginia and working as an accountant at two different companies in that state, Farrell accepted a position in Ocala at AmCar, the American subsidiary of the Belgium-based Carmeuse Group, and eventually became the chief financial officer. When the company was bought in 1987, Farrell prepared to head back to Virginia, but at the urging of his brother Bob, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, he decided to at least try to find work in Northeast Florida.
He got the first job he interviewed for as comptroller and assistant vice president of finance for a development company called Wilson Financial. He wasn’t looking for a new job when he was asked to meet John Rood, chairman of Vestcor, in 1990, but after a week’s worth of breakfast meetings he accepted the position of Vestcor’s chief financial officer. The company, which specializes in the acquisition, renovation and new development of luxury condominiums and apartments as well as low-income housing tax credit developments, grew dramatically while Farrell was there. And he eventually became president and CEO.
Farrell is excited by the prospect of adding his personal touch to his new Ponte Vedra Beach office — from the imported Canadian barnwood flooring to the sea-foam green and butter-cream yellow walls.
Naming the company was the easy part. Farrell said he always knew that if he ever went out on his own he’d name his company after the town in central Ireland where his forefathers had been chieftains. When searching for some distinctive art to memorialize the name and his heritage, Farrell even found a man named Eamon Farrell in Killashee, whom he assumes is some long-lost relative, and asked him to photograph a weathered and crooked road sign bearing the name in both English and Gaelic.
Although the decor at the office is not yet complete, Farrell is already working with individuals and institutional investors in search of investment opportunities and is open to more clients, big or small, he said, particularly those who want to invest but don’t have the time or knowledge of the industry.
Farrell’s early success comes as no surprise to long-time friend Will Montoya, vice president of the independent insurance agency Montoya Brower & Associates. “He’s in a better position to choose his own battles, so to speak.”