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The Reichmann family is a Canadian family best known for their property empire built through the Olympia and York company. At the family's peak, their combined wealth was estimated at $13bn, making them the fourth richest family on the planet. Fortunes waned, particularly with the ill-fated Canary Wharf development which saw the family business file for bankruptcy in 1992 with debts of $20bn. Since then, the family's interests have grown and recovered.
The Reichmanns were originally from the small shtetl of Beled, Hungary but the ambitious Samuel Reichmann moved them to Vienna in 1928 where he became a successful merchant. He and his wife Renée had six children:
- Eva Reichmann Heller (1923-1984)
- Edward Reichmann (1925–2005)
- Louis Reichmann (b. 1927)
- Albert Reichmann (b. 1929)
- Paul Reichmann (1930–2013)
- Ralph Reichmann (b. 1933)
During the Second World War, the family fled first to Paris and then to the neutral city of Tangier. There Samuel became a prominent business leader specializing in the currency trade. Renée became a renowned humanitarian aiding victims of the Holocaust, arranging food parcels to be delivered through the Spanish Red Cross to concentration camps such as Theresienstadt and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Despite the financial success of life in Tangier the family left to avoid the turbulence of Moroccan independence from the French protectorate. Eva settled in London, but Edward went to Montreal where in 1955 he founded Olympia Flooring and Tile to import tiles from Europe. Edward described Montreal with its large Jewish population and opportunity for profits fondly and soon the rest of the family followed him to Canada.
Louis joined Edward in Montreal but Albert, Paul, and Ralph settled in Toronto where they first expanded Edward's tile business but then moved into construction and property development. Samuel was the leader of this business that became known as York Developments. Albert and Paul played a secondary but central role, while Ralph remained in charge of the tile business.
In the late 1960s Edward's Montreal business was faltering and on the verge of collapse. He was only saved from ruin by a bail-out from his younger brothers in Toronto. Embarrassed at this turn of events Edward left Canada for Israel.
Over time, through successful projects in Toronto and New York, Olympia & York became the largest property development and management firm in the world and the Reichmanns one of its richest families. Throughout the family remained strongly committed to their Haredi Judaism.
In the early 1990s, the business empire and family's fortune was brought low by the Canary Wharf project in London. In 1987, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had seen the transformation of the World Financial Centre in Manhattan, enlisted Paul to transform the docklands of Canary Wharf into a financial powerhouse. This project proved catastrophic, as banks were reluctant to move three miles east of the Square Mile. By 1992, O&Y declared bankruptcy in the biggest corporate failure of all time and the Reichmann fortune was greatly reduced. Since then the family has continued to be involved in tiles & stone, retirement care, & real estate development deals around the world.
- Bianco, Anthony. "Faith And Fortune Paul Reichmann: Talented, pious, driven--but not infallible". bloomberg.com. Retrieved 27 February 2017.