Jorge Perez, Miami Real Estate Developer Prepares To Hand Down His Legacy
Jorge Perez talks about his life and times in Miami real estate
When your donation to the Miami Art Museum is $40 million and you can still smile when your net worth drops by $700 million, you can only be one man—Jorge Perez.
Unlike many real estate billionaires who were handed down their fortune from their family, Perez, the Cuban/Argentinian developer earned his un-Godly wealth from old school principles. Education and hard work. The fact he also has an impeccably groomed beard seems to only add gravitas to his accomplishments.
How did the undisputed Latin King of real estate do it, exactly? He used scholarships to earn an undergraduate degree at CW Post and a master’s degree of urban planning at the University of Michigan. Credentials in hand, he traded snow for sun, working as an urban planner in Miami. A meeting with New York developer and Related Companies founder Stephen Ross led to a fateful partnership. The two co-founded Related Group in Florida in 1979.
Picture Florida in the 1970’s. Miles of desolate beaches. Drop-outs, junkies and Jewish retirees in velour tracksuits. All kitsch and no cool. Ross and Perez had a plan. They started off building affordable housing then flipped the script to high end condos. Much of the S. Florida skyline is down to Perez. He attracts planning permits like the pope attracts an audience. In total he’s built 90,000 condos.
With the Miami market softening last year, Perez’ net worth dropped precipitously. But he’d learned his lessons from the crash of 2008. This time he’d entered into partnerships with others and required large deposits (often 50 percent) from overseas investors. The language of leverage is no longer in this land baron’s lexicon. Unlike in 2008 when anyone with a pulse—and some without—were trying to flip pre-construction priced condo’s, this time around, Perez was more judicious in choosing his buyers. He told Forbes that many of the condos he has under contract are with wealthy Latin American investors who have put 50 percent down of the purchase price.
Also, Perez is showing some Latin love, building developments like an international coalition, expanding to Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Panama.
“We started planning international before the Miami market was cooling off,” Perez told Forbes. “During the last recession, we put too many eggs in one basket,” he admitted.
With two residential towers and a waterfront in the previously hard to crack Buenos Aires market, now 80 percent pre-sold, all Perez’ eggs could be Faberge if he wanted. “He’s completed three beachfront residential towers on Puerto Vallarta and is completing three more.
“In Latin America I feel very much at ease,” says the billionaire who counts Trump as an admirer but plans to vote for Hillary. “Miami will continue to be our base, but we will continue to foray into other markets to exploit the brand we’ve been able to create over the years.”
In all, the 66-year old Miami’s Condo King has 12 international joint venture projects in the works. But these days he’s planning for successors, likely his sons, Paul and Nicholas who, like the Trump clan are involved in the family business.
“They’ll keep on earning their place in the company, and of course my hope would be that they would come to run the company a few years from now,” he told Bloomberg. “I can act much more as sort of the true chairman of the company and do some of the things that I want to do.”
The dream for us all.
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