Tom Schwartz: The passing of an icon Earlier this year, RHB Magazine expressed its condolences for the passing of Thomas Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAPREIT). He passed away on Tuesday, August 15, at the age of 68, following a battle with prostate cancer. After graduating as a Chartered Accountant in 1975, Tom went on to pursue a career in real estate development, which lasted for more than 40 years. In 1976, he co-founded Intraurban Projects, which developed new housing projects in mature communities. In 1996, Tom (and Michael Stein) founded CAPREIT, and he has served as CAPREIT’s president and CEO since 1998. Together, they built CAPREIT into Canada’s largest multi-family residential REIT, which has more than 50,000 rental units in Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands. “Tom Schwartz was instrumental in the growth of REITs in the Canadian apartment sector,” said John Dickie, President, Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations. “Tom pioneered the adoption of the REIT structure, which had begun to be used in the Office and Industrial sectors, especially in the U.S. In fact, since the apartment space was open, Tom named his REIT ‘Canadian Apartment Properties REIT,’ which was then shortened to CAPREIT. As the first REIT in the Canadian apartment sector, CAPREIT paved the way for the extensive residential REIT development that followed, and is still going on today.” Tom also co-founded the European Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust and served as its Chairman, and was Chair of the Fair Rental Policy Organization of Ontario (now the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario). He was involved on the boards of many industry and government groups, including the Greater Toronto Home Builders Association, the City of Toronto’s Housing Action rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 23
What have been Tom’s greatest contributions or influences on the rental housing industry? “Tom’s tireless energy in supporting a huge team that supports a huge community of residents that depend on CAPREIT 24/7 for their housing needs. This is such a significant contribution that will live on in the CAPREIT culture and fabric.” – Sam Kolias
committee, the Ontario New Home Warranty Program, the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, the Real Property Association of Canada and Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT.
“Tom’s leadership in building an amazing team around an incredible vision. Tom’s contribution to our industry will be forever remembered.” – Sam Kolias, CEO, Boardwalk Rental Communities
RHB Magazine contacted a number of prominent people in Canada’s rental housing industry, who either knew or had dealings with Tom. The following are some of their thoughts and musings on Tom Schwartz.
“One of Tom’s visions was to transform the residential real estate business into one that was professional and based on good service. Tom ensured that CAPREIT led the way in making this happen.”– Mark Kenney, Chief Operating Officer, CAPREIT
What were the keys to making CAPREIT one of the largest and most successful REITs in Canada? “Tom realized early on the benefit of having strong support functions in place and that it would make the company successful. He focused deeply on the people side of the business as our employees are the ones on the ground making sure CAPREIT maintains our buildings to a high standard in keeping them safe, clean and secure. The buildings are important, and the focus on the employees who run those buildings even more so.” – Jodi Lieberman, Chief Human Resources Officer, CAPREIT 24 | oct 2017
“Tom was a visionary. He saw before many others the opportunity to attract institutional capital to a sector that was positioned for growth. Tom’s leadership in this area led to benefits for existing apartment owners, for residents, for investors, and he demonstrated the opportunity for many who chose to follow in his footsteps.” – Vince Brescia, President and CEO, Ontario Energy Association “Tom’s deal-making skills and big picture vision on acquisitions and dispositions were a key driver to CAPREIT’s growth and success, while maintaining a detailed oversight on the operations and not only
driving the top line revenues but having industry leading energy and expense savings measures. Also CAPREIT’s vision of regional offices and the investment in human capital and having great staff made them the success they are today.” – Daniel Drimmer, President and CEO, Starlight Investments How would you describe Tom as an individual and a business person? “Tom was a thoughtful individual who paid a tremendous amount of time considering how the business impacted others. Tom was always very decisive in his plan to grow the CAPREIT business. Most notably, Tom was kind and always took the time to say thank you.” – Mark Kenney “Tom was brilliant and always had a vision for the company and its next steps. At the same time, he was remarkably humble and down-to-earth. He respected his employees and could talk to anyone, at any level, and find common ground.” – Jodi Lieberman “Tom had a huge heart for those less fortunate and provided
housing for a diverse, inclusive population at affordable prices.” – Sam Kolias “Tom was the consummate professional and gentleman. His style and professionalism instilled confidence in those around him and in those who wanted to invest in the sector.” – Vince Brescia “Tom was very decisive, thoughtful and quick in his decision making. His greatest attribute was a deal is a deal and a handshake is a handshake, something I could always count on and which is a dying art in the business.” – Daniel Drimmer What have been Tom’s greatest contributions or influences on the rental housing industry? “Tom’s tireless energy in supporting a huge team that supports a huge community of residents that depend on CAPREIT 24/7 for their housing needs. This is such a significant contribution that will live on in the CAPREIT culture and fabric.”– Sam Kolias “Tom played a critical role in contributing to the health of the rental sector through his volunteer efforts at FRPO. I still recall Alan Greenberg, Mitchell Abrahams and myself taking Tom for lunch to talk to him about becoming Chair of FRPO at a critical time for the industry – when the government was contemplating changes to rent controls.
Although it was a particularly busy time for CAPREIT, Tom nonetheless agreed to take on the role. Having someone of Tom’s stature proved to be an important part of FRPO’s success in maintaining the positive reforms and investment climate achieved through the rent reforms of the late 1990s when changes were ultimately made in 2007.” – Vince Brescia “He was a very outspoken leader in the business community, doing a great job representing all apartment owners, well respected by all his staff and site staff at the buildings, and considered a gentlemen and a ‘go-to guy’ by his competitors and someone whom everyone always wanted around in a deal because Tom was the guy you wanted on your side and in the trenches next to you on tough deals.” – Daniel Drimmer What have you learned from Tom over your career? “Tom was an incredible mentor. He encouraged people to never settle for the status quo, but to push boundaries and take risks when you can live with the worst-case scenario. He also encouraged people to surround themselves with a strong, positive and trusted team.” – Jodi Lieberman “Tom’s philosophy was that the good guy can win in business. We are all better off treating people with
respect and doing what is right. Fortune will naturally follow in business.” – Mark Kenney “Relationships last forever as do our memories. Tom’s sincere care for others, mentorship and guidance to his peers, team, residents and all stakeholders will live on forever.” – Sam Kolias “I suppose there are many ways people have learned from Tom given the diversity of his strengths and capabilities. What I learned most from Tom is watching how he conducted himself in important situations. His combinations of statesmanship, calm, positive reinforcement and confidence proved effective in many challenging situations. It is something we should all try and emulate.” – Vince Brescia “Always being a gentlemen in every situation, always giving everyone an audience and the time of day, respecting, complimenting and progressing his own staff who all wanted to work for him, and the meaning of a handshake Tom was a real ‘mensch,’ a friend, a mentor and will be deeply missed and forever remembered by myself, not just for his amazing business accomplishments and his time and commitments to charities, but also, and especially for the genuine and sincere person and friend he was, always having fun along every step of the way!” – Daniel Drimmer
Final thoughts “Our industry has lost a pioneer and a giant. Your legacy is the path you gave us to follow. We thank you for everything you’ve done. You will be greatly missed.” – Marc Côté, Publisher, RHB Magazine
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