Paul Moshe Reichmann, the Orthodox Jewish real estate developer who made and lost billions of dollars while transforming the skylines of Toronto, New York and London, died on Friday in Toronto. He was 83.
From the New York Times
Mr. Reichmann and his brothers, Albert and Ralph, led Olympia & York, their family’s real estate development firm, which counted among its greatest projects the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan and Canary Wharf in London’s East End. At their apex in 1990, the Reichmanns held about 8 percent of New York City’s commercial office space, more than twice as much as their closest rival, the Rockefellers.
Paul Reichmann, a tall, soft-spoken man who dressed in black suits, white shirts and dark ties, was clearly the family business strategist and chief decision-maker. He and his family were lavish contributors, mostly to Orthodox Jewish causes; they donated up to $50 million a year to yeshivas, synagogues and hospitals around the world.
The strains of commerce and religious orthodoxy were often inseparable in the family’s ventures. For example, Olympia & York closed its construction sites on the Jewish Sabbath, paying overtime for Sunday labor, and during the Jewish religious holidays, as well as Christian ones.
At the height of his business career, Mr. Reichmann sometimes spoke wistfully of the Talmudic studies and religious school building projects he undertook as a young man.
Paul Reichmann was born in Vienna on Sept. 27, 1930, the fifth of six siblings. His parents, Samuel and Rene, were Orthodox Jews who had moved from rural Hungary to Vienna, where they owned a prosperous egg export business. But Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938 forced the family to flee to Paris.
Two years later, when the Nazis overran France, the Reichmanns fled to Tangier, Morocco, where Samuel Reichmann became a successful currency trader.
When anti-Jewish riots broke out across the Middle East after the 1956 Arab-Israeli War, the Reichmanns uprooted themselves again, this time going to Canada. The family settled in North York, a suburb of Toronto, where Samuel and his sons, Paul, Albert and Ralph, started a small company producing tiles and other building material, which they called Olympia Tile. In 1958, it became the springboard for Olympia & York, which would erect close to 100 buildings in the Toronto area over the next 15 years.
In 1949, Paul Reichmann devoted himself to studying the Talmud in the U.K. and Israel. In 1952 in Israel he met Lea Feldman, who later became his wife.
From 1953 to 1956, he worked in Casablanca as the unpaid educational director of Ozar Hatorah, an American-sponsored group that runs schools for Orthodox Jews, according to Bianco. Reichmann later called that time “the most interesting years of my life.”
From the Toronto Star
Paul Reichmann was among the greatest land developers in history. Reichmann, who died Friday morning in Toronto at 83, was also among this country’s outstanding philanthropists.
It is unlikely that those of my generation, raised in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, will see Reichmann’s like again. With uncommon audacity, persistence and real estate acumen, Reichmann reshaped the skylines of Toronto, New York and London.
Faith and Fortune: The Reichmann Story from Handel Productions on Vimeo.