Garry Marr, The Financial Post, February 2014
One look at the stock chart is probably enough to convince most people of the job Ed Sonshine has done as chief executive of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust.
Over the past 20 years, the REIT has had an annualized total return of more than 15%, making an initial investment of $70,000 easily worth more than $1-million today.
But admiration for Mr. Sonshine goes beyond unitholders. His reputation in the industry is strong, among partners and competitors. The announcement that he is Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year for 2013, an award presented by Bennett Jones, founding sponsor Caldwell Partners and media sponsorNational Post, was widely applauded.
Jon Love, managing partner and founder of KingSett Capital, referred to Mr. Sonshine as a personality that has come to dominate the real estate sector in Canada.
“Ed is smart, disciplined, decisive, with a big vision and a big personality,” said Mr. Love, the former chief executive of Oxford Properties Group, who has known Mr. Sonshine since 1980. “He’s someone you can trust. If he says he’ll do something, trust me he’ll do it.”
Mr. Love said his company deals with a lot of partners including RioCan and says the team Mr. Sonshine has set up at RioCan has made dealing with the REIT a pleasure.
“You get a business that size and it’s not a one-man show but he built the business and the great team and led it well,” said Mr. Love. “RioCan is just a great Canadian story. It typifies the best of Canadian business, great instincts, great skills and great relationships.”
Hugh MacKinnon chair and CEO, Bennett Jones and member, Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year Advisory Board, noted Mr. Sonshine’s active community involvement, having been a major supporter and serving on the boards of many charitable organizations and non-profit organizations across Canada.
“Under his leadership, RioCan REIT has become Canada’s largest real estate investment trust with an enterprise value of almost $14-billion, owning and managing the country’s largest portfolio of shopping centres. The company is on the leading edge of consumer change and Mr. Sonshine has built a formidable team with deep capacity to research potential, understand market expectations and execute deals flawlessly,” said Mr. MacKinnon.
Ira Gluskin, co-founder of investment firm Gluskin Sheff + Associates, said unlike some others in the business world you would be hard-pressed to find many people to say anything negative about the chief executive.
“I never met anybody who didn’t like him,” said Mr. Gluskin, who noted Mr. Sonshine had the good fortune to start up RioCan in 1993, as commercial real estate was ready to recover from dismal times. “This thing started in the bottom of a huge real estate crash. He’d be one of the first to admit it was the right period but it was for other people. He capitalized on it.”
Mr. Gluskin says Mr. Sonshine’s business ethics have helped him over the years gain a foothold on many big deals. “People like dealing with him. There are a lot of real estate people who tell you ‘I’m glad to buy and I’ll pay $100-million’ and then they drag it on and bring in lawyers and try to kill you on details. You get a commitment from RioCan and they honour it. You can’t underestimate that.”
Long-time real estate analyst and managing director of global research at RBC Capital Markets, Neil Downey, called Mr. Sonshine the dean of Canadian REITs.
“From a near standing-start in late 1993, he’s lead RioCan to $13-billion in assets, $8-billion in equity and a 20-year track record of exceptional unitholder returns,” said Mr. Downey.