With a passion and appreciation for both the analytical and abstract, it was a bit fortuitous that Ian MacNaughton would return home to expand his career in Hawai‘i. Though he did well his first year as an economics major at the University of California, Los Angeles, Ian was uninspired by the school’s vast lecture halls and enormous student population. Visiting home after his freshman year, he sought guidance from his father, Duncan MacNaughton, founder of real estate investment firm The MacNaughton Group.
A well-connected member of the Hawai‘i community, his father proceeded to call together an unofficial advisory board comprised of several notable entrepreneur-philanthropists, and they determined that economics wasn’t what Ian should be studying. “They told me, ‘Learn how to read well, learn how to speak well and learn how to write well,” Ian says. “‘The rest, we’ll teach you.’”
A natural number-smith, Ian dove into the finance world after taking their advice and graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s in communications. “Everyone told me that you can never get a job in finance as a communications major,” Ian smirks. “So of course, I wanted to get a job in finance. That’s kind of my personality.”
Young, ambitious and entrepreneurial, he set his sights on big markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. After two years working in the investment banking division of the Swiss bank UBS, he landed in the investment management division of Goldman Sachs and later at the private equity firm Starwood Capital Group. “If you asked me out of college if I would end up at The MacNaughton Group, I probably would’ve said no,” Ian admits.
But after Ian decided to move on from Starwood Capital, his father asked him to consider a position at The MacNaughton Group. “It made me stop and think about where I really wanted to be, both professionally and personally,” Ian says. “I paid my dues on the mainland and got to bring back a lot of those lessons to Hawai‘i and impact this community in a significant way right off the bat. It was an opportunity that was pretty hard to pass up.”
Now CEO and managing partner at The MacNaughton Group, Ian has ambitions to expand beyond the retail and residential condominium sectors in which the company has historically operated. “Hospitality is an area that I put a lot of focus on,” he says. “I believe there is significant opportunity to innovate and create positive change in Waikiki, so my leadership is definitely dedicated to realizing that vision.”
Having worked on the mainland and grown up in both Hawai‘i and the Pacific Northwest, one of Ian’s biggest strengths is perspective. “I try to bring a global perspective back to the Hawaiian Islands in everything we do,” he says. “Whether it’s redefining a shopping center experience or putting together a business plan for a luxury high-rise community, I think that perspective adds a lot to everything we do here at The MacNaughton Group.”
Ian is also active as managing partner at BlackSand Capital, an investment firm he launched in 2010 with co-founder BJ Kobayashi of Kobayashi Group. Fortunately Ian’s business functions go hand-in-hand with his love of travel. “I’ve always loved great architecture and great design, so it’s a passion of mine to see resorts, shopping centers and other developments around the world,” Ian says. “I grew up in this community visiting sites with my father, so real estate is in my blood.”