Michael Ryan is a charismatic global entrepreneur, founder of Silverfin Development Company. For the past 25 years, he has specialized in the development, construction, and operations of multi-million dollar projects, such as the notable Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, the acquisition for the redevelopment of the Lloyds Chambers in the city of London, and coming up in the fall of 2022, a new mix-used development on the island of Grand Cayman. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Mike Ryan attended the Hillfield Stratharallen Preparatory School and then studied medieval literature and philosophy at McGill University. "wonderful training," in his words, because the disciplines taught him the need to read and think. He also spent time on a whale research vessel in the Caribbean and, until his insurers told him to quit, pursued hang-gliding, flying, and mountain climbing, among other sports.
MIKE RYAN: A HARD-WIRED DEVELOPER
Mike Ryan not only learned the world of construction early in life but also applied his education quickly. By the age of 14, he had formed his own construction company during summer break, hiring friends to work on simple projects such as house painting and repairs. "The construction business shaped my life, with the result that I have what I think is a strong grasp of the many facets of this complex and challenging field," he says. Before developing his projects, Mike Ryan worked in Toronto, Quebec, and Europe on such projects as a marina development in George's Bay, townhouse construction in Ontario, and as general manager with Mont Ste. Anne in Quebec is a 256-room hotel with 100 chalets, extensive ski facilities, and a golf course. During this period, he recognized the potential of developing private residential communities of second and vacation homes within a full-service luxury resort. "The idea was to provide all the services and amenities of a fully-staffed luxury private estate –plus some extraordinary amenities such as championship golf –without the hassle, and at a fraction of the expense, homeowners would incur if they did it all themselves," Ryan says. It is interesting to note that the concept has become one of the significant trends in resort development worldwide.
CACIQUE DEL MAR
In the late 1980s, Mike Ryan traveled for two years, searching for the ideal location to implement his idea. After exploring Russia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia, he decided Costa Rica was the best fit. Despite what he calls "the bureaucratic intricacies of doing business in a developing country," he determined that Costa Rica offered the best mix of opportunity and risk. After thorough research of suitable locations, Ryan developed a pilot project of 110 villas. In the meantime, he began the development of a 588-acre site on the Cacique del Mar peninsula, with plans for two major resorts and private homes. The project required Ryan to carve the development out of the wilderness, even designing and building roads, high-tension power lines, water systems, and other infrastructure.
THE RITZ-CARLTON GRAND CAYMAN
In a fortuitous coincidence, the opportunity to develop a resort in the Cayman Islands with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel LLC surfaced just as the Cacique del Mar project ran into bureaucratic difficulties. The Ritz-Carlton, eager to expand in the Caribbean, was looking for someone with offshore development experience. When the company expressed a willingness to financially back its plans in Grand Cayman, Mike Ryan signed on as a developer.
Michael Ryan has been noted throughout his career for his determination and hands-on, total-involvement approach to development. Not satisfied to sit in an office and direct business by phone and email, he moved his entire family to Costa Rica and then to Grand Cayman to become involved on a minute-by-minute basis. "The world is what you concentrate on. Tenacity and total commitment are essential for success in this business. You can either see obstacles or see opportunities and challenges and decide what you can do differently to move ahead," Ryan says.
This project involved construction systems and techniques never before used in the Cayman Islands, an unheard-of scale of construction, and some delicately negotiated agreements with residents, community groups, the local workforce, and the government. Nut, as Ryan puts it, “hands-on involvement is where the fun is."
Mike Ryan's colleagues and staff might also note an inclination toward decisive action as one of the developer's ingredients for success. "Let's do it!" frequently is the directive that ends a discussion of pros and cons, often sooner than later. A project on the scale of this one in the Cayman Islands requires patience, but it also demands self-confidence in risk-taking and decision-making.
When The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman opened in October 2005, it was because the developer, Michael Ryan, drew on a lifetime's experience and knew when to hold on, how to insist and persevere, and most importantly, when and how to forge boldly ahead. Or, as he might more modestly put it, "I'm not smart. Just stubborn".
FIN GRAND CAYMAN
Fifteen years later, Mike Ryan joined forces with long-time friend and Caymanian developer Dale Crighton to build the impossible once again. FIN is the first of its kind on the island, with luxurious amenities like private elevator access, a glass-bottom cantilevered pool, and an artificial saltwater lagoon.