Book Smart

CFO Vadim Shub has had a lot of schooling, and it was a huge leg up when he began positioning Skyline International Development for further growth

Vadim Shub
Vadim Shub

It’s a common notion that nothing replaces real-world experience, but Vadim Shub knows from real-world experience that the idea isn’t entirely true.

“They say there’s a big difference between the skills you gain in university and the skills you gain in the workforce, but I disagree,” he says. “I’ve been able to utilize things I’ve learned in school on an everyday basis.”

After earning an undergraduate degree in accounting and economics from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Shub obtained a CPA license in Israel and began working as an audit manager at an accounting firm. A few years later, he joined a client, John Bryce, as a controller and took on increasing responsibilities, going from overseeing one operational division in 2000 to five by 2004. Eventually, he became CFO of a subsidiary of Matrix, a Nasdaq-listed company. His responsibilities there required an additional increase in his knowledge base, so he became a US CMA and began studying to become a US CPA.

Then came a big change: a move to Toronto in 2004. “We went to visit a relative in Canada and liked the scenery and space so much we decided to move,” Shub says.

There, Shub decided to pursue an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University (ranked by the Economist, Forbes, and the Financial Times as a number one business school in Canada and by Bloomberg as one of the top 20 in the world), finishing with honours in just 12 months while also earning a chartered accountant license from Ontario. “To get ahead in accounting, you simply need to have an acceptable level of schooling,” he says.

FACTS & FIGURES

Skyline International Development

1,700
Employees

20
Direct reports

8
Properties

$600,000
Book equity of the firm at its founding

$120 million
Current book equity

$250 million
Current market value

71%
Internal rate of return since 2000

In 2007, after working in various financial positions, Shub ended up at Toronto-based Skyline International Development Inc., a developer and operator of tourist destinations, including a cluster of renowned Ontario hotels and resorts: Deerhurst (the host of the 2010 G8 summit), Horseshoe Valley, King Edward Hotel, and Blue Mountain. Founded in 1998 by 2004 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Gil Blutrich, Skyline seeks out hospitality properties that generate a return on investment but that also have additional development potential; it then makes significant operational and property improvements. The strategy works: from its founding to the present, Skyline’s value has increased from $600,000 to $120 million.

Shub’s move there came “completely by chance.” When the company he was working for was acquired by Shoppers DrugMart and soon to be delisted—therefore no longer needing Shub’s service as public reporting manager—a headhunter called about a job as vice president of finance for a fast-growing, entrepreneurial company, which turned out to be Skyline. “When I spoke to the CEO, we clicked quickly,” Shub says.

Since arriving, Shub has made significant changes that are propelling Skyline into its next stage of growth. When he joined, Skyline’s parent company had recently become public, and Skyline began acquiring numerous assets, all of which were using different operational software; Shub combined them into one system—“a large undertaking,” he says. Shub also revised the company’s financial-reporting system so that management, at any given time, can know Skyline’s precise profitability. Finally, he was instrumental in the year-and-a-half-long process that resulted in the company being able to refinance a number of loans, resulting in a substantial reduction in payments.

To do all this, Shub says, he had to quickly learn new tax rules, regulations, and the international reporting standards that are now applicable to all Canadian companies. It was no small undertaking, but he has clearly succeeded. From 2000 to 2012, Skyline’s investments in Ontario generated an average internal rate of return of 71 percent, and recently it sold out two new condominium projects of roughly 140 units each in just two weeks. In December 2013, it was named a regional finalist by Canada’s Best Managed Companies program. “The company is on the verge of becoming a public entity,” Shub says.

Skyline has developed and also manages a number of tourist destinations, including Deerhurst, the host of the 2010 G8 summit.
Skyline has developed and also manages a number of tourist destinations, including Deerhurst, the host of the 2010 G8 summit.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Job title
CFO

Industry
Tourism and real estate

Years in the business
15

Where did you start your career?
As an audit manager for a CPA firm in Israel.

Describe yourself in three words
Reliable, adventurous, methodical.

Advice to those just starting in finance
Whatever you learn in university will help you.