Making Realty a Reality

Richard Crofts’s legal work is helping Bentall Kennedy manage and develop property on both sides of the 49th parallel

Richard Crofts found his true calling as a legal professional when he arrived at Bentall Kennedy.
Richard Crofts found his true calling as a legal professional when he arrived at Bentall Kennedy.

In many ways, the story of Richard Crofts is a story of combinations. He’s the executive vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for Bentall Kennedy, one of North America’s largest real estate investment advisors and Canada’s largest property manager development firm, a company stemming from the merger of Bentall and Kennedy Associates in 2010. He has a joint MBA/JD from York University, where he graduated in 1998. In 2004 and 2005, respectively, Lexpert named him a Top 40 Under 40 Canadian Lawyer and a Top 40 Under 40 Canadian In-House Counsel. He provides legal advice and assists with strategic planning and project execution for Bentall Kennedy in both the United States and Canada. And, of leadership, he quotes the great John F. Kennedy: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Crofts’s background includes articling at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, followed by an associate role at the New York–based firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. With a desire to become more involved on the business side, Crofts shifted in-house to the Magna International Group in 2002, and the position gave him his first significant exposure to real estate acquisitions, dispo­sitions, and developments. In 2010, he made the transition to Bentall Kennedy, and it’s there that he began to truly embrace the material aspects of his work.

“Bentall Kennedy made a decision that, as it was growing in size and developing a dual Canadian and US focus, [it] needed in-house legal counsel,” Crofts says. “While I was with the Magna International Group, working on the real estate side at MI Developments [now Granite REIT], I realized that I really enjoyed being involved in real estate transactions.”

Crofts enjoyed that the largely intangible aspects of his legal work resulted in the material realization of developed and constructed real estate. His previous role with MI Developments gave him room to apply both his legal and his business knowledge, but it was his interest in both directional strategy and the tangibility of property transactions that drew him to Bentall Kennedy. “It’s exciting to me to be able to walk into a building for the first time in a development that might have taken several years to get built—and know that you played a role in helping to create that,” Crofts says. “It’s a great feeling.”

Bentall Kennedy’s history stretches back to 1911, when Bentall began as a small Canadian construction company and later grew to become one of Canada’s largest real estate advisory and services organizations. Kennedy Associates started in Chicago in 1978, specializing in the same advisory services throughout the United States. As the green movement gained momentum in the early 2000s, both of the firms realized they had a mutual interest in responsible property investment (RPI) and forged an alliance in 2006. Attracted not only to the tangibility of real estate transaction but also to the social rewards of RPI work, Crofts saw a transition to newly forming Bentall Kennedy as an ideal leadership opportunity. “Real estate has a very real impact in the community,” he says. “You build a new building, and it impacts how people live, work, and play, and I enjoy being at the forefront of that.”

Crofts’s work stretches into both Canada and America, so he tries to blend the best attributes of both countries’ approaches to doing business in order to extend Bentall Kennedy’s reach and impact in each market. “At Bentall Kennedy, I have a great opportunity to interface with very strong US and Canadian professionals, and getting that breadth of experience and learning from those different approaches and styles is very important,” he says.

In turn, Crofts uses this stylistic diversity to inform his role at Bentall Kennedy, particularly as it relates to the firm’s forward-looking view and its plans for attracting new international investors.

“I’m working with the other senior leaders of the firm to develop the strategic goals of a truly North American company,” he says. “I really enjoy this role, because it gives me an opportunity to expand my business horizons.”