René Lépine

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René Lépine
Born (1929-10-23)October 23, 1929
Montreal, Quebec, Canada [1]
Died April 18, 2012(2012-04-18) (aged 82)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Residence Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Ethnicity French Canadian
Alma mater HEC Montréal (Honorary D.B.A.)
Occupation Chairman & President of Groupe Lépine [1][2]
Years active 1952–2012
Spouse(s) 1st marriage: Françoise Larrivière-Lépine
2nd marriage: Josée Lacoste-Lépine [1]
Children 5 (first marriage), 1 (second marriage)
Rene H. Lépine [3]
Normand Lépine [3]
Louis Lépine [4][1]
Francis Lépine [5]
Francesca Lépine
Charles Lépine [6][1]
Website
Groupe Lepine

René G. Lépine, Sr. (October 23, 1929 – April 18, 2012) was a Canadian real estate tycoon, developer, businessman and philanthropist. He was the founder of Groupe Lépine, a privately owned real estate company headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, of which he was the Chairman and President.[2]

He is considered to be one of the all-time largest and most influential real estate developers in Quebec.[1] He had developed over time, more than 20,000 residential units, mainly houses and condominiums, as well as around 5,000 subdivided properties. Combined and adjusted to inflation, his projects are valued at more than $1 billion.

He was the owner and operator of numerous rental buildings and towers in Downtown Montreal. In 1969, he and partner Lorne Webster bought the Le Cartier building on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal from the Montreal Trust Company, through a leveraged buyout, and built the Peel Plaza building right next to it in 1973.[1]

Since the 1960s, he built more than 1,500 houses in Montreal's Hampstead, Westmount and Côte Saint-Luc areas,[1] as well as over 10,000 condominium units across Canada and the United States.

Lépine developed many buildings and landmarks in Montreal, including the Olympic Village and the Sanctuaire du Mont-Royal complex.

Since his early 70s, Lépine spent his time between work in Montreal and his other home in Palm Beach, Florida.[1]

He was known for his humble personality[citation needed] and never allowed the release his net worth to fortune-ranking magazines.

Lépine died at his home on April 18, 2012, after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.[7]

Early life[edit]

Lépine grew up in Verdun, a working-class neighborhood of Montreal, in a family of 10 children.[1] At age 14, he had to drop out of high school to make money for the family after his father became ill.[1] He worked moving bags of rice for 4 years, and later used the saved money to build a split-level house in Côte Saint-Luc, which was immediately sold by chance to a wealthy bystander.[1] Lépine quickly doubled his money, and started building homes, and eventually incorporated Groupe Lépine in 1953.[1]

Career[edit]

In 1974, he, Joseph Zappia, Gerald Robinson and Andrew Gaty, were directly appointed by the then mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau to build the Olympic Village for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.[1][2][8]

In 1999, he bought the old YMCA building in Downtown Montreal and built two 50-floor towers originally called Les Tours Lépine (Lépine Towers). The project cost approximately $80 million.[9] The towers were later renamed Le 1200 Ouest after they were purchased during development in 2005 by the Israel-based company El-Ad Group/Delek Group.

In 2001, he received the UDI Quebec Award for Excellence in Real Estate for the redevelopment of the Downtown Montreal YMCA project.[10] His ultra-luxorious projects, such as the Sir George Simpson and the Sir Robert Peel are exclusively represented by Sotheby's International Realty.[11]

He was the Chairman of Real Estate for MD Financial and bought over $1 billion worth of properties for the MD Realty Fund.

Business in Russia and assassination threats[edit]

In 1991, Lépine was doing business in Moscow, attempting to expand his business operations to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was planning to build two projects valued then at $775 million,[12] being one of the first Western companies to develop real estate in Moscow since the Cold War. He was asked by the Government of Canada to build the Canadian embassy in Moscow. He was also asked by the Canadian Government to give a personal tour of Montreal to Yury Luzhkov, the former Mayor of Moscow during his official visit. He also met Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-President of the Soviet Union, during this time in Montreal.

A few years later, all projects planned were dropped after he and one of his sons received anonymous assassination threats that were deemed credible. Lépine decided to leave the country immediately and instantly decided to scrap over $850 million worth of projects. He had not actually started any of the projects and didn't lose much money, although the period was a relatively unproductive 3 years for him and his business.[citation needed]

1999 controversy[edit]

In 1999, one of Lépine's companies purchased land from the Canada Lands Company, a federal crown corporation reporting to Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano, for $4 million, less than half its assessed value of $9 million.[1] The terms of the acquisition also required that a large abandoned historical building encumbering the center of the site be renovated and preserved at Lépine's company's expense. Lépine claimed that the city had not agreed to make the roadwork and sewers which cost him $2 million in expenses, bringing the land cost to a fair price.[1] Even though the sale was the result of a public tender for which Lépine's company offered the highest price, the sale still raised questions because Lépine had been a longtime supporter and donor to the Liberal Party of Canada.[13][14]

Notable developments[edit]

  • Peel Plaza- a popular rental building right next to the McGill University campus in Downtown Montreal.
  • The Olympic Village- a two-tower pyramid-shaped structure with 1,000 units, built in record time for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal.
  • The Berkshire on the Ocean – the first timeshare condominium complex in Boca Raton, Florida, a concept which immediately became extremely popular in the 1980s.
  • The Sir Robert Peel- a luxurious condominium tower in Downtown Montreal.
  • Le Sanctuaire du Mont-Royal- a multi-award-winning complex of 7 towers with 945 units in Outremont, Quebec.
  • Sussex House- a rental building near Sussex Drive in Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Les Tours Lépine- two 50-floor condominium towers in Downtown Montreal.[15]
  • Sir George Simpson- a 12-story luxury condominium building in the Golden Square Mile, containing many of the most expensive and exclusive apartments in Montreal (up to $8M+ in 2011).[16][17]
  • Full List of Developments

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Lampert, Allison (2011-03-04). "A legacy of luxury housing". Montreal Gazette. 
  2. ^ a b c Townsend, Dorn (2010-06-11). "Montreal Real Estate Pushes Ahead". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b Mediterranea Marks 50% Pre-Sales, Pours Concrete on First Building. thebambooagency.com
  4. ^ Manhattan in Montreal. Sothebysrealty.ca (2011-12-15). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  5. ^ Groupe Lepine. Groupe Lepine. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  6. ^ Maguire Gillies, Craille (2007-01-11). "Comfort and Joy". Canadian House & Home. 
  7. ^ Lampert, Allison (18 April 2012). "Prominent real-estate developer René Lépine has died after lengthy illness". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Lampert, Allison (2011-06-21). "Montreal home seekers 'felt pressure' to buy from developer". Montreal Gazette. 
  9. ^ Tour Lépine I | Buildings. Emporis. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  10. ^ Richard Clare receives the UDI Quebec 2001 Award for Excellence in Real Estate | Newsroom | Fasken Martineau. Fasken.com (2002-02-11). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  11. ^ Groupe Lepine. Groupe Lepine. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  12. ^ "Montreal firm gets Moscow contracts". Montreal Gazette/Canadian Press. 1991-10-16. 
  13. ^ Marsden, William (2002-01-15). "Developer got prime federal land at half value". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  14. ^ Riga, Andy (2005-04-30). "Accusations foretold sponsorship fiasco". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  15. ^ Les Tours Lépine | Buildings. Emporis. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  16. ^ Groupe Lepine. Groupe Lepine. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  17. ^ Montreal Gazette (2006-08-09) Condo project approved. Canada.com. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.

External links[edit]