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Paul Reichmann

    '''Paul Reichmann''' (born 1930) is a Canadian businessman best known for his leadership of the Olympia & York property development company

    Formative years

    Reichmann was born in Vienna in 1930 to Samuel Reichmann a wealthy egg merchant and his wife René His parents were Ultra-Orthodox Jews from a small town in Hungary but his father had risen to prominence in Vienna as a successful merchant
    The family escaped the Nazi occupation of Austria by sheer chance as they happened to leave the country on the day of Anschluss to visit Paul's grandfather in Hungary who had suffered a stroke Abandoning their lives in Vienna they made their way from Hungary to Paris where they settled The Reichmann family fled when France fell to the Germans eventually making their way to the neutral city of Tangier
    In Tangier the family prospered as Samuel became a major currency trader After the war Paul left home to study religion first in Britain and then in Israel He was a brilliant pupil and became a Rabbi In 1953 he returned to Morocco to become a teacher and that same year he married Lea Feldman

    Rising success

    Three years later Paul left Morocco to join his elder brother Edward in Canada Edward had established a successful flooring and tile company in Montreal 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
    Unsatisfied with the local builders Paul Reichmann decided the company would construct its own warehouses and offices Soon the company was building such facilities for others In 1964 Olympia and York was founded as a separate building and property development firm
    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 The company expanded to New York 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
    His success had little impact on Paul Reichmann's lifestyle 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 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 a collection of rare and valuable Jewish texts Pursuant to Jewish law all of Olympia and York's construction projects halted on the Jewish Sabbath and all holy days

    Troubles

    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 in a deal that included some $300 million in tax breaks Many Canadian were infuriated that a massive corporation had been given such a lucrative deal 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 $109 million They were successful and Toronto Life published a full retraction but their heavy fisted response soured many in the Canadian media to the Reichmanns
    In 1992 Olympia and York collapsed under some $20 billion in debt Paul Reichmann retained most of his personal fortune but his business reputation was tarnished Despite this he successfully rebuilt a portion of his empire which included gaining control of the now immensely profitable Canary Wharf project