TORONTO (Reuters) - Paul Reichmann, a Vienna-born Canadian who became one of the world’s top commercial real estate developers but lost his empire in the 1990s real estate crash, has died at the age of 83, according to Canadian media reports.
Reichmann, who co-founded development company Olympia & York and went on to build mega projects such as New York’s World Financial Center and London’s Canary Wharf district, died early on Friday, according to the reports that cited his investment company, Toronto-based ReichmannHauer Capital Partners.
ReichmannHauer Capital did not immediately respond to Reuters inquiries.
Born in Vienna in 1930, Reichmann’s family left Austria just ahead of the Nazi occupation in 1938. In the 1950s, Reichmann, an Orthodox Jew, settled in Canada and joined his brothers in a flooring and tile business, which he soon began to steer into real estate development.
By the 1980s, Olympia & York was one of the largest developers in the world, with high profile projects such as Toronto’s First Canadian Place, which remains Canada’s tallest office building, and the World Financial Center in New York.
But it would be the Canary Wharf business district in London’s Docklands that would become both Reichmann’s crown jewel and his greatest failure.
The project, envisioned as a new business district on a derelict patch of East London, was completed just as the global real estate slowdown hit in the early 1990s.
Heavy debts forced Olympia & York into bankruptcy soon after, and cost Reichmann much of his vast fortune.
Since then, Canary Wharf has flourished as a business center. Reichmann continued as a real estate investor, and was able to regain partial control of the project in the mid-1990s, although only with a minority interest.
Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Tim Dobbyn