Board of Directors and CEO

NVD is fortunate to have a strong board of directors with a diverse set of skills and experience. The board meets regularly to provide oversight and direction to the senior management team and often holds these meetings in either Calgary or Whitehorse. Following are brief biographies of our board members.

Jennifer Byram

Member of the Board

Jennifer Byram grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon and is a graduate of the University of Alaska, Anchorage with a degree in Business Administration. Jennifer Byram has more than 35 years of experience in heavy earthworks projects. With a hands-on approach, she directs the operation of Pelly Construction and oversees the planning and administration of the financial, human and capital resources of all Pelly’s projects. She has worked her entire career in remote isolated jurisdictions including Yukon, NWT, Alaska and Antarctica.

Jennifer is a director of River’s Edge Partnership, a company whose Owners include Vuntut LP, Chu Niikwan and Pelly Construction. The Partnership built and maintains two Whitehorse waterfront properties, Wind River and Park View.

Jennifer was instrumental in creating Porcupine Enterprises, a construction company located in Old Crow, Yukon. The company was jointly owned by Vuntut LP and Pelly Construction which performed civil earthworks including, ice road construction, remediation, riverbank stabilization, road building and quarry development. Vuntut LP now owns 100% of the company.

Jennifer is a founding member of the Yukon Construction Safety Association (now the Northern Safety Association) and sat on various boards including, Yukon Chamber of Mines, Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Yukon College Foundation, Yukon Producer’s Group, and the Yukon Contractor’s Association.

Hannes Kovac

Member of the Board, Chair of the Development Committee

Hannes Kovac chairs the Development Committee and has been a director since 2009.  As President and CEO for OPUS Corporation, Hannes has been influencing the real estate development market in Calgary since 1997.  He has earned his reputation as an industry leader overseeing the development of over 25 million square feet of real estate and turned OPUS into a recognized service provider for the development and construction needs of third parties. He was instrumental in landmark developments such as OPUS 8 downtown, the Golder Building, Interplex Business Park, Stampede Station, Stantec Centre and Britannia Crossing.

Hannes has a passion for growth and his success is bound only by his imagination; one need only spend a few minutes with him to understand how his passion and energy motivates everyone he meets.  He has vision, creativity and drive and exudes a positive never give up attitude.
His accomplishments include being awarded the Calgary Downtown Vitality Award as well as the 2008 Leader of Tomorrow Award.  He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and is a board member for Northern Vision Development, Calgary Economic Development and the Calgary Film Centre.

Committed to giving back to the community, he participated in the Easter Seals Rappel Challenge, Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation Calgary Tower Rappel as well as supporting agencies such as the Inn from the Cold, Ride to Conquer Cancer; Safe Haven, The Minerva Foundation, The Alberta Cancer Foundation and Kids Cancer Care.  Championing a charity project with his former EO group (VECTRA), he helped construct a new school for street children in Guadalajara, Mexico. In addition, Hannes has a passion for sports and OPUS as a result is the main sponsor for Jason Pohl, one of Canada’s top professional Ironman athletes.

A native of Austria, he graduated with a Masters of Law from the Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, before going on to do post-graduate studies in International Law at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Daryn Leas

Member of the Board, Chair of the Governance Committee

Daryn is a citizen of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and a member of the Crow clan.

Over the past twenty-five years, Daryn has worked with most of the self-governing Yukon First Nations and acted as general counsel for the Council of Yukon First Nations. He also represents Indigenous groups and organizations in western and northern Canada.

His areas of work include constitutional, environmental and trust law with a specialization in First Nation issues. He has been involved in the negotiation and implementation of various First Nation land claim and self-government matters in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and British Columbia. He has represented First Nations and public utilities in the negotiation of impact benefit agreements and cooperation agreements relating to energy, mining, pipeline and infrastructure matters.

Daryn has worked with self-governing First Nations to establish trust structures to hold and manage their financial assets and has been appointed as the protector of seven First Nation trusts that have a collective value of more than $300 million. In general, the protector is appointed by the community to provide oversight and guidance to the trustees as they carry out their duties and responsibilities.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) at the University of British Columbia in 1990, Daryn graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto in 1993. He has practiced as a sole-practitioner since 1996. He is also associate counsel with Boughton Law Corporation, a full-service law firm located in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he lives.

Ian McAuley

Member of the Board, Chair of the Hotel Committee, Member of the Audit Committee

Ian has a history of visionary leadership: Respected for leading organizations to improve, thrive and grow. Known for optimizing resources to achieve core mission by building the confidence and earning the respect of key stakeholders and establishing and maintaining a positive and enthusiastic corporate culture.

His career includes senior leadership roles with both privately-held and publicly-traded companies incorporating over $2 billion in transaction and operational experience in both Canada and the USA.

As a corporate board member, Ian has held a variety of positions, including Audit, Investment, Governance, and Finance committees. As an executive, he has been the President and CEO of both large corporations and entrepreneurial start-up businesses.

As a musician, Ian has performed on national stages with world-class musicians across many genres, including classical, rock, jazz, bluegrass, and traditional.

Ian holds BA, and MBA degrees, is a graduate of the University of Toronto ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program and is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, is a director and chair of the hotel committee and a member of the audit committee of Northern Vision Development LP, is a former director of the Hilton Owners Advisory Board, and a two-term director with the Hotel Association of Canada, and is a current board member of The Musical Stage Company in Toronto.

John McConnell

Member of the Board

John McConnell’s +40 years of mining experience is mostly in Canada’s northern territories.

John has been President & CEO of Victoria Gold since 2010 and has led the exploration, development, and financing of the Eagle Gold Mine in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Eagle has been in production since 2019 and at full production will produce +200,000 ounces per year of gold.

Previously, he was President & CEO of Western Keltic Mines until it was acquired by Sherwood Copper; VP, NWT Projects for De Beers Canada primarily responsible for permitting and development of the Snap Lake Diamond Mine; Breakwater Resources Ltd in operations at the Nanisivik Zinc & Lead Mine on Baffin Island; and Strathcona Mineral Services Ltd.

Mr. McConnell is the 2021 Winner of AME BC’s prestigious EA Scholtz Award for Excellence in Mine Development for his role in building the Eagle Gold mine. A graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, with a B.Sc. in Mining Engineering Mr. McConnell is also a Director of Lahontan Gold Corp.

Lori Simcox

Member of the Board, Chair of the Audit Committee

Lori Simcox has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University and an MBA from Royal Roads University. She is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) with the Canadian Association of Management Consultants. Ms. Simcox’s graduate consulting work involved Executive Management and First Nation Administration strategic planning.

An independent consultant, Ms. Simcox has led several consulting projects for the Federal government, worked on projects for small business and works as an internal management consultant in several sectors for the Economic Development department of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.

She currently operates SPAL General Constructors Inc as CEO, a company that manages partnerships in the construction industry, and has been a leader in Indigenous engagement, negotiating local involvement and successfully securing multi-million dollar contracts throughout British Columbia with over 30 prime industry leaders.

Ms. Simcox provided support and completed marketing contracts for Takaya Developments, a real estate development company. She sat on the technical working board for the Four Host First Nation’s Olympic Secretariat and is on Executive Board for the Indigenous Tourism Association of BC as Treasurer. Further work in community economic development involves participation on an application review committee for Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI) for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

For the last three years, Lori has served as a Lieutenant Governor in Council appointee to the board of Royal Roads University and currently serves on the governance and nominating committee.

Ms. Simcox and her business partner, opened Unity Clothing Inc, in Whitehorse, Yukon with the goal of providing good quality choices in fashion at great prices. In 2011, they opened the store in North Vancouver, BC.

Ms. Simcox has made several presentations at leadership and economic development conferences including the National Aboriginal Business Opportunities Conference in Osoyoos BC. Adding to several interviews and articles in Western Investor, Business in Vancouver and the Vancouver Sun, and BC Business Magazine.  Ms. Simcox main focus, education and experience are in business and community economic development.  As a member of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, Lori sits on the Board of Northern Vision Development LP on behalf of her community’s Trust.

Rich Thompson

Chairman of the Board, CEO, Member of the Audit, Governance, Development and Hotel Committees

Rich is well known in the Canadian advertising community, private company investment circles and in the northern Canadian real estate arena where he is CEO of NVD – a major real estate and hospitality operator in the Yukon. He holds a B.SC from the University of Toronto and an MBA from York University where he graduated with distinction. Rich founded Strokes Design Ltd. in Calgary, Alberta in 1987 and evolved it into Parallel Strategies Inc. which became western Canada’s largest independent advertising agency in the 1990s. He also co-founded Tiger Media which became one of Canada’s leading multimedia firms in the 1990s. Both were sold to Axia Netmedia in 1997, with Rich becoming President of Axia’s New Media division.

In 2000 Rich repurchased a number of assets from Axia, forming Zero Gravity Inc., and since then the company has grown steadily – now ranking as Alberta’s largest agency under the name ZGM Collaborative Marking – while winning significant recognition for its work. Rich is Chairman of ZGM.

In 2004 Rich co-founded Northern Vision Development LP, the most active real estate company in the Yukon. Serving on the board since formation, he took over as that Partnership’s CEO in March 2009. In 2011 and again in 2018 The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce named NVD Business of the Year and in 2015 NVD was named best large business in Canada’s northern Territories at the Frozen Globe Awards. NVD owns three hotels in Whitehorse, and partially owns and manages two in Dawson City and one in Mayo while also being responsible for the Yukon’s standard-setting residential and commercial development. NVD manages a comprehensive commercial and residential estate portfolio. Rich also owns and manages an extensive personal portfolio of real estate holdings in Alberta and BC.  In 2021 Rich received recognition at the Fourth Annual Arctic Indigenous Conference as Yukon Innovator of the Year for his work as Chair of the Yukon Governments Business Advisory Council on COVID responses.

In 2008 he launched Pureform Diagnostic Imaging Clinics and Medstate Developments LP, a company focused on the development of state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging clinics in Alberta. Subsequent to the sale of Medstate in November 2019, Rich continued as CEO.

Rich has a strong entrepreneurial record and is well known as a business leader in Alberta. He has acted as a director for the Institute of Canadian Advertising, the Glenbow Museum, the Alberta Ballet and the Calgary Urban Project Society. For three years he served as Canada’s representative on the International Board of the Young Presidents’ Organization ultimately fulfilling the role as the international organization’s Vice-Chair in 2008/9.  Rich has served on many boards in the Yukon and was Chairman of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce for three years. He co-chaired the Yukon Tourism Steering Committee responsible for establishing strategies for growth in the tourism sector.