In fact, Cooper is such a big believer in the value of office towers that he’s focusing Dundee REIT on office space. After the Scotia deal, its 22.4 million square feet of office space topped Brookfield’s office arm in Canada.
Cooper is also looking beyond the Canadian market. The real estate sector here has been strong for so long that everyone’s piled in and the competition is fierce. He’s got two new babies. One is Dundee Industrial, a REIT he launched last summer to play with a different type of real estate. The other is Dundee International REIT, which has bought properties leased to Deutsche Post, Germany’s post office. Over time, he hopes to rent the buildings out to new tenants (post offices being in shrink mode) while also adding new properties to the mix.
But Germany is just the first step of an emerging master plan that coincides with him recently getting married—in Las Vegas, complete with an Elvis impersonator officiating.
With a new woman, Krystal Koo, by his side, Cooper is now going global. “Dundee REIT has 2 per cent of the world’s economy to buy real estate in,” says Cooper’s friend Brydon Cruise, an investment banker who also sits on International’s board of directors. “Dundee International has 98 per cent plus.”
You thought over $10-billion of real estate could satisfy a man? Not Michael Cooper. “He hasn’t even started,” says Cruise.
Just east of the downtown core, the Distillery District is full of beautiful old buildings, but by the late 1990s it had become rather dumpy. Developers wanted to revamp the area, but a partnership dispute derailed their efforts. Soon after, Cooper bought a 50% stake, and more than 320,000 square feet of commercial space was renovated and leased. Then, Cooper started building condos. The area is now a heritage showcase, a hot spot for events, dining and shopping.
Pan Am Games
Through Dundee Kilmer Developments, Cooper is building the athletes’ village for the 2015 Pan Am Games on the West Don Lands at the mouth of the Don River. Following the Games, Cooper will turn the village into residential properties, woven together with a new college, a YMCA and storefront retail.
King Edward Hotel
Cooper is a partner in plans to redevelop the storied hotel. The revamp will include the addition of more than 100 condos, and classic areas such as the Crystal Ballroom will be renewed. Total costs were expected to top $100 million, some of which went toward overhauling some floors to turn them into residential units.
77 Admiral Road
Naturally, Cooper applies his real-estate acumen in his personal life. When the former German consulate went up for sale in 2006, he scooped it up for $2.9 million. The property, built in 1906, is in the heart of the illustrious Annex neighbourhood. Cooper has hosted myriad parties there, including a gathering in honour of Bill Clinton.
Office towers go up for sale all the time, but rarely one as prestigious as Scotia Plaza, Bank of Nova Scotia’s headquarters. Cooper went up against behemoth pension funds, but somehow came out on top—surprising even himself. The price, $1.3 billion, is the most ever paid for a Canadian office tower. The building is now the largest asset in Dundee’s portfolio, accounting for about 5% of its leasable space.