Mr. Fournier married in his mid-30s, and the couple had four children in five years. He and his family often spend time at their log cabin about three hours from Montreal. A firm believer in public service, Mr. Fournier ran as a Conservative in the 2006 federal election in the storied riding of Outremont, long a Liberal stronghold. The Liberal candidate held onto the seat.
“His only lapse of judgment in my opinion is he ran as a Tory,” said former Ontario Premier David Peterson, a Liberal. “But we laugh about this. He’s not partisan in any way, he’s a public servant. He’s got a wonderful wife and wonderful family, all the beautiful values.”
A couple of years later, Mr. Fournier did a stint at SITQ, one of the Caisse’s real estate subsidiaries at the time. “It was right in the middle of the [financial] crisis, I’m the chief investment officer, and it was very clear that there were no acquisitions to speak of for the next couple of years,” he says. “That’s not my style to go at 40 or 50 per cent of my capacity.” He left after a little more than a year, only to be lured back by Mr. Sabia a short time later.
One of Mr. Fournier’s first major decisions in his current role was to merge the Caisse’s real estate subsidiaries, SITQ and Ivanhoe Cambridge, into one. “We wanted to have one balance sheet, one board,” he says, as office and retail deals began to top $1-billion.
He set about putting a new strategy in place, the one that left hotels on the chopping block. Montreal remains key, and the company will be investing in several of its properties there, including the Eaton Centre, Place Montreal Trust, and Complexe Les Ailes. Shopping centres are also key. Ivanhoe owns 42 of them in Canada, which currently attract 290 million visitors a year, and is investing to grow that number.
The U.S., meanwhile, is likely to become a larger component of the portfolio, though Mr. Fournier is cautious. “We’ve looked at all kinds of retail opportunities in the U.S., but we haven’t even come close to finding something,” he says.
Ivanhoe is forging ahead in the U.S. office market, though, and recently teamed up with Callahan Capital Partners there. “Again humbly, rather than sending down some Montrealers three days a month to compete against people whose entire careers have only been about New York City, we’ve formed a partnership,” Mr. Fournier says. The company is leaving cities where it owns only one or two properties to concentrate on New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Washington – places where it can establish a critical mass.
The company has spent $2-billion on shopping centres in Brazil that are aimed at the three million people who join the middle class in that country each year. “We’re looking hard for the next Brazil,” Mr. Fournier says, shortly before he orders a fruit salad.
“In your opinion, is Europe a problem or is Europe an opportunity?” he asks me, clearly leaning toward the second option. Ivanhoe is working on opportunities to buy the debt of beleaguered real estate companies as a way of obtaining assets at a discount, the type of strategy that helped it and private equity firm TPG takeover the Woolgate Exchange office building in London’s business district this year.
A dozen cookies, biscotti and macaroons arrive for me even though I declined dessert. As the waiter sets a huge plate of fruit down for Mr. Fournier, he says that one of the reasons he loves history is that it always repeats.
“Our annualized yield over the last 10 years is 12.5 per cent,” he says, plucking a macaroon from the plate. “But it would have been out of the park had we bought in 2008 and 2009. So you say to yourself, if anything happens in the next four or five years, try to be in position.”
Grew up in the West End of Montreal, where he lived with his mom and sister. “A very close family, a lot of aunts, uncles, cousins, a partly Irish grandfather who marries a Francophone grandmother who has some of the most unbelievable parties to this day.”
Married to Caroline Drouin, whom he met on a blind date. They have four children: two sons, 22 and 18; and two daughters, 20 and 16.
EducationAttended Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite prep school in New Hampshire, on scholarship in 1971.
Bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University in New Jersey.
Bachelor’s degree in jurisprudence from Oxford University, Rhodes scholar.
Worked at Canderel
Founded Equidev Inc., which bought Ogilvy in 1985 and Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton in 1989.
Chief investment officer at SITQ, from 2008 to 2009.