Case study // Robert H. Lee Biography

Real-estate mogul banked on his values

Thank you for all of your time and effort to make Dad’s book such a success. You are an army of very talented people. You and your incredible team worked tirelessly to get the book from the start to the finish line. Our families will treasure it for years to come!
— Leslie Lee, Bob’s daughter

CHALLENGE: Tell the whole story

We’d been hoping to work with Bob Lee for years. The real estate legend had a remarkable story; from humble beginnings in Vancouver’s Chinatown, his name now graces buildings throughout the city thanks to his generous philanthropic contributions. However, when we sat down with Bob, he was clear that the story wasn’t just about him; it had to incorporate his ancestors in a narrative that would explain how he inherited his core values, and how those principles guided every personal and business decision he ever made.

SOLUTION: Go deep into the archives

We had to start the story at the beginning, and we mean the very beginning. Our research team dove deep into Chinese-Canadian historical documents to trace Bob’s lineage back to China. The final capstone was detailing Bob’s transformative work at the University of British Columbia, where his values helped him conceive of a revolutionary property trust that has endowed the university with over $1 billion.

Our Art Director took inspiration from Chinese textiles at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, incorporating them as textures in the book’s sidebars and opening spreads. Archive photos capturing the Chinese immigrant experience in Canada accompanied images from the Lee family collection.

RESULT: A story that touched a community

The Lee family launched the book at a black-tie gala where the book was so popular with attendees that they rapidly ran out and had to take orders from those anxious to have their own copy. Bob and his family were inundated in the weeks after the gala with praise for the book’s beauty, the fascinating historical background, and the compelling personal stories, many of which Bob never shared publicly before.

One More Cool Thing About This Project

Bob’s story has inspired generations of Vancouverites, and Bob is taking it one step further – he will distribute copies of his biography to this year’s UBC MBA cohort, hoping to inspire the next generation of changemakers.