The Reichmanns, published by Random House of Canada, is the most revealing account yet of the reclusive, media-shy family who built Olympia & York into a $10 billion real estate colossus. The rapid fall of Olympia & York in 1992 shook the international business landscape.
Bianco’s tour de force deftly captures one of the century’s most intriguing business stories and places it in a broad social and historical context. His account traces the Reichmanns from their Hungarian roots to their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and to their ultimate arrival in Canada.
“The Reichmanns built one of the great family fortunes in the world and lost it,” said Bianco, who had to resign from his position as senior writer with BusinessWeek in New York to write the book. “The Reichmanns, and Paul especially, are a throwback to an older, more daring style of doing business. Paul is one of the great real estate minds of modern history and he had an enormous appetite for risk, which proved Olympia & York’s undoing in the end.”
In his book, Bianco reveals how the family straddled the disparate worlds of casino capitalism and Jewish fundamentalism, starting with egg merchant Samuel Reichmann who created the first family fortune in Hungary and added to it as a currency trader in Tangier. Bianco contends that the Reichmann sons were motivated by their mother Renee whose heroic efforts helped rescue Jews trapped in occupied Europe. The Reichmanns themselves narrowly escaped capture by the Nazis.
About the author:
The Reichmanns is Bianco’s second book. A Random House editor who was involved in his first book, Rainmaker, which was about a Wall Street dealmaker, first suggested he tackle a book on the Reichmanns.
“At first, the family was reluctant to cooperate,” said the 44-year old Bianco, who was mindful of the fact that a Canadian magazine once found itself in a lawsuit after publishing a lengthy story about the Toronto-based family. “It took two and a half years to establish my credibility with Paul Reichmann, but after I did I had a series of lengthy interviews.”
Bianco also interviewed Edward and Louis Reichmann, and many other members and acquaintances of the family. Bianco’s three-and-a-half year foray into the Reichmann empire took him all over Europe and North America as he personally visited every place they had ever lived. He even hired translators in five different languages to help in his research.