FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Peter Thorpe
May 7, 2013
So, why am I writing a piece on someone who is a direct competitor for insertion in my publication which, among other things, helps promote my business? Good question! . . . I’ve known Peter Thorpe for about 10 years. He does office leasing in downtown Calgary – we works at Avison Young and our paths cross frequently and literally. I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s affable manner and his tendency to turn just about any conversation into a discussion about soccer.
I sat down with Peter recently over lunch and built on my sketchy knowledge of him, my curiosities about his path in business, and industry, we share passion for – and learned, like most successful folks at our stage of life, that he is a pretty eclectic fellow with a range of experiences and interests that go far beyond what shows on the surface.
His accent reveals his British history, asking him if he still plays soccer seems obvious given his lean physique. We’ve had snippets of conversation about on many subjects, he often comments on my columns as did again recently following the Boston Marathon bombings – and he tells me he often forwards them to friends in the soccer world in England. But in recent months he’s talked to me less about soccer, more about a cause. His cause – his passion, seems to have inspired him to want to focus more on the cause than soccer. In early chats I gathered it was ‘developing world stuff’, micro-banking, and bigger than he had first given me to understand what this Opportunity International passion of Peter’s is really all about. He pointed me to a great little YouTube video that describes it very well.
Ironically, the day we met was the day of Maggie Thatcher’s funeral. Peter describes her election as the primary reason he and his then wife emigrated to Canada with their young children those many years ago. He describes it as fear of difficult times with obstruction, and opposition parties (trade unions in particular) fighting Prime Minister Thatcher were likely to produce a lengthy recession (which they did), so heading off to Canada, and to Calgary (where Peter had a brother to sponsor him) seemed like a good move for them – a decision over which he harbours no regrets.
What got him from his working class family in Derby (pronounced Darby), series of unsatisfying jobs in administrative work – to finding jobs in the professional soccer business – are a fascinating tale of causes/effects and serendipity.
I asked Peter for his outlook on business in the next 90 days?
… in many ways I think we are just treading water with lots of uncertainty
. . . and over the next 5 years?
… I think Calgary will be just flying but I am skeptical about the scale of change. So many technology things have been touted as ‘game changers’ for business but our business hasn’t changed very much. [at this point in the interview we exchanged some contrary views … and went back to talking soccer and Opportunity International]
What do you think of Mayor Nenshi’s leadership, particularly as it impacts the development, and therefore the real estate industry?
… I think he is doing a decent job. He doesn’t hold back. I really don’t take too much time these days with politics, preferring instead to focus on the bigger issues facing our planet and that is why I’ve involved in Opportunity International.
What do you worry about, what keeps you up at night?
… I’m not scared of anything – except not getting our trips [next on his agenda, a 2-week biking trip through Vietnam and Thailand, then a 2 month 630 km. biking trip on the south-west coast of England in 2015 ] in! I’m pretty optimistic.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life?
… without doubt, the most significant was Brian Clough – Mgr. of the DerbyCounty Football Club. He was honest, ethical and caring, owned responsibility, didn’t hold a grudge.
Why this cause Opportunity International?
… a colleague invited me to a fundraising event in 2004, I was impressed by the organization and how much they have accomplished, and I try to help out. I’ve met some fabulous people making incredible change in people’s lives. $8 million has been raised in Alberta alone in the past 10 years.
What role does soccer play in your life today, in Calgary?
. . I’m just a fan . . .
What are you reading?
. . Cambodia’s Curse by Joel Brinkley
. . . no car, doesn’t drive – which might account for the difference between his obvious lean fitness and mine!
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