To become a real estate mogul you have to love what you do, be able to make quick decisions and have a good
relationship with your banker, the Vancouver Real Estate Forum heard from local real estate legends Joe Segal
and Natale Bosa this week.
Segal is best known for starting Fields Stores and then taking over the much bigger Zellers, which was
subsequently bought by Hudson's Bay Company.
It was a deal that people called the mouse swallowing the elephant, the 87-year-old said. At the time, one of his
stores - which was 6,000 square feet - was beside a Zellers.
Fields was doing $1 million a year in that spot while Zellers, which was occupying 24,000 square feet, was doing
only $400,000. "So I figured there must something wrong here," Segal said.
So he talked to his banker and asked him for $50 million to buy Zellers, which was a lot of money in 1976.
"And I was shocked. He gave it to me," Segal said.
But his first foray into real estate came earlier - when he had a surplus $100,000 from his retail business that he
used to buy a building.
And from there he's developed a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio. One property he bought for $600,000 is
now worth $150 million, he said.
Segal looks at each project and measures the risk/reward ratio. "If I can digest the risk I'll take a shot and I'm
entitled to the reward," he said.
But you have to be able to make a decision, he said.
Bosa, the president of Bosa Development Corporation, the company behind projects like Citygate near the Telus
World of Science and Newport Village in Port Moody - jumped at the chance to get involved in Citygate, buying one
of the parcels in 1988.
He then bought a second piece before being offered the rest of the development.
"It was a big gamble at the time but at the time I had more guts than brains," Bosa said.
And he was able to find a banker who would lend him the money on short notice.
"You've got to have a nose for it," the 68-year-old Bosa said. "You've got to really believe in what you're doing.
You've got to feel it's going to work. And fortunately it's worked for me."
And a little ignorance can be a good thing.
"Sometimes being too smart is not going to get you there," he said. "If you study things too much you're going to
miss out. Because if you know too much about a deal chances are you aren't going to buy it."
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