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Paul Reichmann, visionary developer dies at 83

Oct. 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM   |   Comments

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TORONTO, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Trailblazing Canadian real estate developer Paul Reichmann has died at age 83, his family said.

Reichmann, who developed the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan in the early 1980s, made and lost billions of dollars in his lifetime, The New York Times reported Saturday.

His signature project was the World Financial Center. He purchased the properties in 1977, when the city was close to bankruptcy, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported.

Reichmann bet that the financial district of New York would make a comeback and that paid off handsomely.

He also developed First Canadian Place in Toronto and eventually made such a name for himself that banks relaxed standards when it came to granting him loans, the newspaper said. However, this backfired years later, when real estate values crashed in the 1990s. At that point his development company, Olympia & York, was bankrupt, the newspaper said.

As he tried a comeback, he had his eye on developing Canary Wharf in London, but the deals went to other companies.

A nephew, Philip Reichmann, and the developer's son-in-law, Frank Hauer, tried to revive Olympia & York in 1997. The firm reclaimed First Canadian Place and invested in Canary Wharf, but the financial crisis of 2008 was too big a setback and the company was taken over by a German bank in 2009.

But in his day, Reichmann was hailed as a gutsy, old-school developer who took risks that were as big as the payoffs.

"Today, the whole business is dominated by institutions," said Ira Gluskin, founder of wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff Associates Inc.

Gluskin said Reichmann was a "genuine real estate genius."

"He was the one that had the strength and the risk-taking and the imagination to undertake that project," said John Zucotti, the former head of Olympia & York's U.S. operations, referring to the World Financial Center.

"He had vision. He could see things that other people couldn't see," Zucotti said.

Reichmann was one of five brothers who emigrated to Canada in 1955, from Tangier, Morocco, having having first fled persecution in Vienna, the Globe and Mail said.

He remained strictly religious throughout his life, shutting down the company for the Sabbath on Friday and keeping it shuttered until Sunday.

One time, after a flight was delayed from London to Toronto, he arrived after the Sabbath had begun and he refused a ride to his house.

"He walked from the airport to his home," said RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust chief executive officer Edward Sonshine, who worked with Reichmann on various projects in the 1980s.

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