Paul Reichmann

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Paul Reichmann
Born(1930-09-27)27 September 1930
Died25 October 2013(2013-10-25) (aged 83)
Known forfounder of Olympia & York
Spouse(s)Lea Feldman (m. 1953)
RelativesReichmann family

Albert Reichmann, Brother

Ralph Reichmann, Brother

Paul (Moshe Yosef) Reichmann (Hebrew: משה יוסף רייכמן‎‎; 27 September 1930 – 25 October 2013) was a Canadian businessman and member of the Reichmann family. He is best known for his leadership of the Olympia & York real estate development company.

Formative years[edit]

Reichmann was born in Vienna in 1930[1] to Samuel Reichmann, a wealthy egg merchant, and his wife Renée. His parents were Orthodox Jews from a small town in Hungary, but his father had risen to prominence in Vienna as a successful merchant. Paul was the fifth of six children.[2]

The family escaped the Nazi occupation of Austria unintentionally. They had left the country on the day of Anschluss to visit Samuel's father in Hungary who had suffered a stroke. Abandoning their lives in Vienna, they made their way from Hungary to Paris, where they settled.[citation needed] The Reichmann family fled when France fell to the Germans, eventually making their way to the neutral Moroccan city of Tangier, and the Tangier International Zone.[citation needed]

In Tangier, the family prospered as Samuel became a major currency trader.[3] After the war Paul left home to study Judaism first in Britain and then in Israel, and became a Rabbi.[citation needed] In 1953 he returned to Morocco to become a shirt retailer, and that same year he married Leah Feldman.[citation needed]

Rising success[edit]

Three years later Paul left Morocco to join his elder brother Edward in Canada.[citation needed] Edward had established Olympia Flooring and Tile, a successful flooring and tile company in Montreal.[citation needed] Paul, along with his brothers Albert and Ralph, moved to Toronto to set up a branch of the flooring and tile company in that city.[citation needed]

Unsatisfied with the local builders, Paul Reichmann decided the company would construct its own warehouses and offices.[citation needed] Soon the company was building such facilities for others.[citation needed] In 1964, Olympia and York was founded as a separate building and property development firm.[citation needed]

The firm was soon profitable, and expanded rapidly. It also accepted difficult projects, including the construction of First Canadian Place, Canada's tallest building, in 1976.[citation needed] The company expanded to New York City and Tokyo and by the mid-1980s it was the largest developer in the world, and the Reichmanns were one of the world's richest families.[citation needed]

His success had little impact on Paul Reichmann's lifestyle.[citation needed] He remained very private and unwilling to talk to the press. He retained his strong religious views, and used much of his fortune to support his religion.[citation needed] In Toronto he built a number of schools and synagogues which became the centre of a thriving Orthodox community. Shunning most luxuries, his one personal indulgence was collecting rare and valuable Jewish texts.[citation needed] Pursuant to Jewish law, all of Olympia and York's construction projects halted on the Jewish Sabbath and all holy days.[citation needed]


The company ran into severe trouble in the early 1990s. It was due in part to a general decline in the world economy, but the company was truly brought low by the Canary Wharf project. It was the world's largest property development, but remained half empty. Reichmann had taken the project as a major gamble. He had been impressed by Margaret Thatcher's reforms and obtained a personal promise from her that she would help the project, most importantly by extending the London Underground to reach it.

In Canada, Reichmann's once sterling reputation also began to suffer. In 1985 the company had bought Gulf Canada Resources[4] in a deal that included some $300 million in tax breaks. Many Canadians were infuriated that a massive corporation had been given such a lucrative deal.[citation needed] Toronto Life magazine also published a highly critical article on the Reichmanns. The family took offence at allegations that Samuel Reichmann had aided the Nazis with illegal smuggling operations during the Second World War. The family sued the magazine for an unprecedented $102 million.[5] They were successful, and Toronto Life published a full retraction.[citation needed]

In 1992, as Olympia and York collapsed under some $20 billion in debt,[1][6] Reichmann lost most of his family fortune.[1]

Recovery and retirement[edit]

Despite these setbacks, Reichmann successfully rebuilt a small portion of his empire. This included setting up a partnership with George Soros, Lawrence Tisch and Michael Price.

Along with investors such as Al-Waleed bin Talal, a consortium paid $1.2 billion for a controlling stake in Canary Wharf, from a third party in charge of the property's administration. Reichmann was hired as chairman. As Sandy Weill stated, Reichmann was hired because, he "...really came up with that whole concept and built it, and got overleveraged and lost it...he knew where every screw was, where every nail was, he knew and loved the operation better than anyone else..." Canary Wharf went public in 1999.[7]

During 2004, a takeover battle began for the Canary Wharf Group in which Reichmann eventually sided with Canadian developer Brascan to attempt a purchase of the company.[citation needed] During this process, he resigned his position on the Board.[citation needed] In March 2005, a consortium of investors led by Morgan Stanley under the banner of Songbird Estates purchased Canary Wharf Group, and Reichmann was therefore no longer involved with Canary Wharf on a day-to-day basis.[citation needed] Reichmann, at the time 75, announced that he intended to retire from business and sold many of his property holdings.[citation needed]

Return to business activity[edit]

In September 2006, Reichmann announced that he was bored with retirement and that he would be setting up a new $4 billion fund, based in Toronto, with offices in Great Britain and the Netherlands.[citation needed]


Paul Reichmann died at the age of 83 in Toronto on 25 October 2013.[1][8][9] His funeral took place Saturday night, 26 October 2013, at the Bais Yaakov Elementary School (15 Saranac Boulevard), in Toronto.[citation needed] He was buried in Jerusalem, in Har Hamenuchot cemetery.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Kandell, Jonathan (2013-11-25). "Paul Reichmann, Who Helped Develop the World Financial Center, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  2. ^ McNish, Jacquie (2013-11-02). "Driven by a sense of destiny: A soft-spoken Talmud scholar, he was an unlikely yet determined businessman-negotiator who built a real estate dynasty". The Globe and Mail. p. S12.
  3. ^ "01/20/97 FAITH AND FORTUNE-Part 1". 1997-06-15. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Canadian developers flex financial muscle. Olympia & York has projects in Toronto, New York, worldwide". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  6. ^ http://archive Archived 12 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. is/jYVuN
  7. ^ Khan, Riz (2005). Alwaleed, Businessman Billionaire Prince. New York: HarperCollins. p. 120-121. ISBN 9780060850302.
  8. ^ "Former Toronto real estate mogul Paul Reichmann dies at 83 | CTV News". 1989-03-13. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  9. ^ "Paul Reichmann, real estate magnate, dies at 83". CBC News. 2013-10-25. Retrieved 2014-03-03.