Reichmanns: An eggstraordinary family

Anthony Bianco's 1997 book, The Reichmanns: Family, Faith, Fortune, and the Empire of Olympia and York did a pretty comprehensive job on tracking down the roots of the enigmatic Reichmann clan. The Reichmann family fortune starts in Beled, Hungary in the 1920s. When the Russian exporters failed to provide for the European market as a result of war and revolution, Samuel Reichmann cornered the egg market, selling to Austria, Germany and England. He had already amassed sizeable wealth by the time the Depression rolled around, and by the early '30s moved the family out of Hungary. By 1940 they were in the International Zone of Tangier. Here, their history becomes unclear. What is known is that Samuel became a money changer, playing the international currency market and accruing $20 million in nine years. In Tangier, Eva, the family matriarch, convinced Franco's officials to issue protective visas to Jews in Nazi-occupied Budapest, and in this way helped to save thousands of lives. She also sent tens of thousands of food parcels to inmates of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, but the likelihood that they reached their destination is small. In the decades that followed, the ultra-orthodox Toronto-based Reichmanns built the Olympia and York empire, constructing the 72-story First Canadian Place in Toronto and the World Financial Center in New York. They mortgaged much of their property to fund a bold multibillion dollar development in London known as Canary Wharf in the late 1980s. Situated on a stretch of abandoned dockland on the Thames, the five million square feet project flailed and fell, leaving the Reichmanns bankrupt by 1993. Jerusalem wasn't immune to the echoes of the fallout. The Reichmanns had promised a $30-million loan for the construction of Jerusalem's new City Hall and when the company fell, so did the cash. Although Paul Reichmann, (Samuel's son) lost $10 billion in the ordeal, by 1995 he had regained a five percent toehold in the project. Today, a decade later, the Reichmann family has a large stake in this project, and the Reichmanns have succeeded in regaining a considerable chunk of their wealth.