REICHMANN, family of international real estate developers, philanthropists. SAMUEL REICHMANN (1898–1975), a wealthy egg merchant from the small Hungarian town of Beled, and his wife, RENÉE (1898–1990), moved to Vienna in 1923. Deeply observant Jews, they eventually had six children. The family was visiting Samuel's sick father in Hungary when *Kristallnacht took place and Nazi-inspired gangs attacked Jews and Jewish property in German and Austria. The Reichmann's did not return to Vienna. Instead, Samuel took his family first to London and then to Paris. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the family escaped to the international city of Tangier in then-Spanish-controlled Morocco. In the wide-open business atmosphere of wartime Tangier the family prospered as Samuel became a major currency trader. Renée, with the help of her daughter EVA (1923–1986), used the family's wealth and influence to pressure Franco's officials into issuing visas to Jews in Nazi-controlled Budapest, helping to save several thousand lives. Through the Spanish Red Cross, Renée also packed and shipped many thousands of food parcels to the inmates of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
After the war, Samuel's son PAUL (1930–) left Tangier to study in yeshivot in Britain and Israel. He returned to Morocco as a rabbi in 1953 and began working to modernize Jewish religious education in Morocco. But like most Jews in Morocco, the Reichmann family would soon pack up and leave. Despite their financial success, the family joined an exodus of Moroccan Jews hoping to avoid turbulence looming in the wake of Morocco independence. Eva settled in London and EDWARD (1925–2005) went to Montreal with its already large Jewish community. In 1955 Edward founded Olympia Flooring and Tile to import and sell tiles from Europe. The rest of the family soon followed him to Canada. LOUIS (1927–) joined Edward in Montreal but ALBERT (1929–), PAUL (1930–), and RALPH (1933–) settled in Toronto, where they first extended Edward's tile business but eventually, under the corporate name of Olympia & York, branched out into construction and property development. Edward would later suffer business reversals and, aided by his younger brothers in Toronto, moved to Israel where he became successful in property development.
In Toronto the Reichmann brothers – soon known for their integrity, religious observance, protection of their privacy, and modest lifestyle – first built and operated warehouses and other commercial developments in the bourgeoning city's rapidly growing suburbs. With Paul at the helm, the Toronto company gained a reputation for building structures faster and more cheaply than any other developer. Building success on success, they expanded into the international property development and management business. Among the company's larger projects were First Canadian Place in Toronto, manor property development projects in Tokyo, and the successful New York City Battery Park development known as the World Financial Center. By the 1980s Olympia & York had grown to be the largest property development firms in the world and, in an effort at diversification, the Reichhmann company purchased Abitibi Price, a major pulp and paper firm, and in 1985 bought the Gulf Canada oil company. By the late 1980s the Reichmanns were reportedly among the ten wealthiest families in the world.
In the late 1980s the Reichmanns took a huge gamble when Olympia & York agreed to develop the 83- acre Canary Wharf site in remote east London, the largest development project in the world. They lost. As Britain slid into recession and property values tumbled, the project suffered enormous financial setbacks. With office space at Canary Wharf largely empty, Olympia & York ran out of money. In 1992 the company filed for bankruptcy and was dismembered in February 1993. The Reichmanns were left with only a small property management company known as Olympia & York Properties Corporation. During the decade that followed this new company rebounded to become a multibillion dollar firm, reclaiming a stake in the now prosperous Canary Wharf project, as well as First Canadian Place in Toronto. It also has begun to revitalize its stake in property development in major centers around the world. Today, the family's business interests are moving to the next generation.
The members of the Reichmann family in Toronto remained steadfast in their adherence to Orthodox religious tradition. At cost to themselves, the Reichmanns closed down their construction sites for the Sabbath and for Jewish holidays. Much honored in Toronto and international Jewish world, they were also generous in supporting an international infrastructure of Orthodox schools, yeshivot, kolelim, synagogues, and other institutions. The family was also very active in Soviet Jewry campaigns and in support of other charitable and educational causes in Canada, Israel, and around the world.
A. Bianco, The Reichmanns: Family, Faith, Fortune, and The Empire of Olympia & York (1997).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.