Bianco's riveting family saga tells "a gripping tale of huge talent, huge fortune, and even huger hubris. . . . A fine, well-researched, and elegantly written book" ("Los Angeles Times Book Review".) 16-page photo insert.Amazon.com Review
The Reichmanns' astonishing saga began in Hungary and sweptthrough Austria, France, and North Africa before achieving apotheosisin Canada, where the secretive, ultra-orthodox Jewish family foundedOlympia & York Development, the greatest real estate empire in theworld at its peak in the 1980s. The company's collapse into bankruptcyin 1992 is a modern cautionary tale of biblical proportions, renderedby business journalist Anthony Bianco in lavish detail backed byformidable research. Interviews with various family members enable theauthor to plumb personalities as well as profit motives; theirdecision to cooperate is justified by his careful fairness. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (10)
Extremely interesting.A well written and well researched book.
I really enjoyed this book.This book follows the lives of the Reichmann family.The book begins in Hungary where the Reichmann's were born and wends its way through Europe, to Morocco and thereafter to Toronto, Canada where the Reichmann's still call home and ultimately the entire world.The book begins in Hungary and gives an in depth history of the Reichmann Brothers parents and Orthodox Judaism.Having not been brought up in this religion or tradition, I found this part of the book fascinating and informative.The family narrowly escapes the Nazis and crosses the ocean to settle in Toronto.The oldest brother, Edward, is already in Montreal and helps Paul, Ralph and Albert start a tile company.As fate would have it, the company grows large enough to build a new warehouse.The brothers are upset at the prices they are quoted to build the warehouse and build it themselves for significantly less than the lowest bid.This seemingly irrelevant circumstance is the beginning of what becomes one of the most intense stories of property development and wealth accumulation in the history of the world.From the experience of building their own warehouse, the brothers purchase land and buildings in Flemingdon Park in Toronto.At this point I must interject and say that, though the brothers are Paul, Albert and Ralph, it seems that the vision, the financial acumen and the genius of the company is all Paul Reichmann.Paul seems to be the one who takes the ideas from inception to completion.And for me the parts of the book that are about Paul are the most fascinating.It is NOT just the vision that Paul Reichmann has, but it is the courage and the conviction to place his entire company on the line SEVERAL times.Ironically, this was also the downfall of the company as Paul made an ENORMOUS bet on Canary Wharf in London that ultimately caused the company, Olympia & York, to implode and declare bankruptcy.After Flemingdon Park, the brothers erect "First Canadian Place" in downtown Toronto.At the time, this is the tallest building in the Toronto skyline.From there, Paul buys the Uris Buildings in recession laden New York City for $320 million dollars.People think he is crazy, but these buildings eventually are valued at ten times what he paid for them.The buildings are used as collateral for his next venture, "The World Financial Center" in the financial district of NYC.The WFC is built on the landfill from the excavation of the "World Trade Center".Each megaproject's story is told in comprehensive detail.The brothers, though ensconced in business, never waiver from their strict Orthodox roots and their charitable contributions to Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox education are legend.There are minor projects all over the US (when talking about the Reichmann's, projects valued in the tens of millions become minor.)This brings us to Canary Wharf, another megaproject that was ultimately the undoing of the family fortune and the company.Strangely, after Canary Wharf was placed in receivership, it went on to become successful and Paul Reichmann ultimately participated in its success.So it turns out that his timing was off and had the banks given him some leeway, it seems the company could have stayed intact.I apologize for the oversimplification, but I would have to write another book just to explain what has happened since then.Paul Reichmann is approaching 80 years old.He is apparently still involved in many aspects of business.This story does justice to a financial genius of the highest order and it can give some insight into his thought process.Yes, he faltered and perhaps it was his own hubris that helped bring O&Y down, but just to get to this level requires focus and intelligence on an almost unimaginable scale.This is fun reading and it almost has an air of unreality as the projects get bigger and bigger and the stakes larger and larger.Someday I'd love to see a book exclusively about Paul Reichmann, one that would try to capture how he thinks and WHAT he was thinking when these projects were being built.I think this would be valuable to any student of business and finance.
I recommend the book
The book, "The Reichmanns; Family, Faith, Fortune and The Empire of Olympia & York" by Anthony Bianco is a 668 page mind boggling tale of a family dynasty that came from nowhere and rose to one of the most wealthy families in the world in one generation.The book explains how through Paul Reichmann's insatiable drive and willingness to parlay the profit from each successful project into a much larger endeavor, their wealth exploded to over $10 billion at the peak, just before risking everything on Canary Warf on London's East End.
At times it's a bit of a fight to get through the sections that are not related to business and real estate, but those sections give you a good idea about the family's morals and values and bring you closer to understanding their thinking.
A memorable section is when they braved the NYC real estate slump of 1976 - 1997 and purchased eight skyscrapers from the Uris Building Corporation for $46 million down. Within a decade the package would have a value of over $3 billion.
The book is packed with similar anecdotes that both inspire and encourage someone wanting to build a real estate fortune of their own.
By Kevin Kingston author of, "A 20,000% Gain in Real Estate"
Details of a lost culture and a lost business empire
The book discusses in great detail the Reichmann family's role both in Jewish culture over the last couple hundred years and in the real estate developement business over the last 40 or so years.
The part I liked the best was the descriptions of 18th and 19th century Jewish life in the "oberland"(sp?) of Hungary.A lost culture, thanks not only to the Nazis but also to Jewish Emancipation.
In a way, it is inspirational, as it shows how one family managed to integrate a healthy, traditional religious expression with philanthropy and business acumen.It also shows that you cannot understand what makes that family "tick" without understanding the rich culture and religion of orthodox jewishness.
The greatest strength of this book, in my opinion, is that it is a _history_ of the family and its business, religious, philanthropic, and cultural dealings.It isnt the hagiography that so many business biographies in the popular press tend to be.
Paul at the helm
As the Reichmanns anticipate another rush to the top of the heap we shall watch with amazed eyes as this family woos our imagination, yet again!As renowned as the Reichmanns have been there are still followers of scrappysuccess stories that do not know much about what this family, with brotherand son Paul at the helm, contributed to New York City's skyline.TheWorld Financial Center was a creation of their delicately named Olympia& York.Read this from beginning to end so that you can grasp the riseand fall and now, again, rise of this amazing family.As is usuallyindicative of most business minds through time, the children are not ascapable as the original "originators" themselves.
Better than a soap opera
For those interested in real estate development, I recommend skipping through the first half of the book and starting at page 256. From there on it is fascinating reading on the possibilities of development for those with seemingly infinite capital on hand. Paul Reichmann's passion, driveand high tolerance for risk makes for better reading than most novels.
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