FROM the moment you walk into her modest but stylish office with its Philippe Starck "Ghost" chair and Warhol-style multicoloured pictures of Donald Trump, it is apparent that Marie Macklin is not your average building company boss.

Blonde and striking, she flourishes a gold-toned business card inspired by the notepaper used by billionaire Trump, one of her heroes.

But if you figure that Marie Macklin is merely a high-heeled anomaly in the gritty world of bricks and mortar, you would be wrong.

Presiding over a company founded by her father in 1988, and with turnover approaching GBP20 million this year, the financially shrewd Macklin combines high-powered deals with a refreshingly down-toearth approach to life as a managing director in what has been traditionally a man's world.

"If one of the cleaners doesn't show up for our show homes, I just get stuck in and clean it myself. I never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself, " she says.

Macklin became managing director and owner of Klin Group two years ago when her father was forced to retire because of ill-health and she bought out the other family members.

Since she took over, she has grown turnover from just GBP7m and presided over a number of brownfield mixed-use property developments in Kilmarnock which are leading the way in the regeneration of the town that was once a thriving centre of manufacturing.

"I grew up in this town and I saw it had taken a backward step. It was devastating to watch, " she says.

Klin invested in regenerating sites such as Barclay House, former site of the town's locomotive manufacturing base, creating a new Heritage District long before the town fathers cottoned on to the commercial benefits to be had from such a strategy. She wanted to create jobs and bring in outside investment and has the distinction of persuading Sir Ken Morrison to set up his first Scottish store on a Klin development in the town, before he took over Safeway.

"I targeted Morrisons one cold February morning. I called the property guy in Carlisle which was their nearest store. They said 'No'!" she recalls.

But just before she gained planning consent, Macklin tried again and Morrison and his team drove up in a minivan and sealed the deal. "I deal with a lot of retailers and some of them are snakes. But I have the greatest respect for Sir Ken. We got the first brand new Morrisons store in Scotland, " she says.

Macklin says it is Klin's ability to spot an opportunity to invest in key brownfield sites ahead of the pack that has been behind its success.

Just 39 years old, she jokes that she has been in the business for more than 30 years. "I was trotting around on building sites after my Dad when I was three years old, " she explains. Born and raised in Kilmarnock, she briefly became a cause celebre two years ago when she made a GBP2.1 million bid to acquire Kilmarnock Football Club, a move which would have earned her a place in the history books as the first female owner of a Scottish football club. The bid was ultimately rejected by majority shareholder, the Moffat family, and although Macklin says she was disappointed, she had just taken over the Klin Group and was happy to roll up her sleeves and concentrate on that instead. She remains the club's second biggest shareholder.

She was mildly puzzled at the media circus that attended her bid, depicting her as Scotland's answer to Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City FC.

"I would have run it in a disciplined financial way, like I run the business, " she says.

Macklin's father John Dick worked his way up from a bricklayer to become a director before founding his own company, naming it after an abbreviation of his daughter's married name.

"We were told, 'we'll educate you but go off and find your own jobs' and we all did, " says Macklin.

Klin started by refurbishing properties but switched to buying brownfield land and doing its own developments in unpopular locations in Glasgow's east end, Barrhead and Paisley. "We went to places the national builders wouldn't go because they thought it was too hard and we offered a quality product at affordable prices, " she says.

Now the nationals are there too and values have risen considerably. The appeal of Kilmarnock is also catching on as people who work in Glasgow are drawn to a town only 20 miles away but with more affordable housing.

Macklin says: "About 63% of our market is from Glasgow now. You can buy a one-bed flat from us for GBP95K or a threebed or penthouse from between GBP175k and GBP250k."

She has a persistent streak, which not only helped her land the Morrison deal but secured advice from her hero Trump. "I admire him because he's like my British bulldogs - he just won't let go of an idea."

Macklin hoped his eye for a good property deal and Scottish roots might help persuade him into investing in one of her projects. It didn't.

But after a few attempts she got him to send her ideas on how to approach urban regeneration, advice which she put to good use in Kilmarnock.

"The best advice was to interact with the community and bring it with you, " she says.

She is looking at least 10 years ahead to changing retail and lifestyle trends, as Trump did. Klin's projects include the conversion of the town's derelict opera house - Operetta House - into a threestorey retail location in the style of Glasgow's Princes Square.

She acknowledges that Kilmarnock is unlikely to attract the likes of Versace, but sees scope to create a futuristic shopping experience, which she hopes will make the town a shopping destination.

Macklin's prescient investments are attracting the attention of other property investors who are lining up to look at the sites which are nearing completion.

She may have missed her goal when aiming for the local football club, but she is demonstrating a sure-footed touch in the property game.


Marie Macklin became MD of Klin Group in 2003.

Career: Trained in accountancy; finance role with Morrison Construction 1980s; Royal Bank Invoice Finance 1991-96; Klin Group 1997 to present.

Bought out family members in 2003 when father retired.

Pastimes: Football, politics.

Business heroes: Father John Dick, Sir Ken Morrison, Donald Trump.

Drives: Porsche GT2.

Family: Married to Drew, two bulldogs, Billie Buster and Maggie Mae.