Montreal property developer Marcel Adams who survived the Holocaust and fought in Israel’s war of independence has died at the age of 100.
Mr. Adams founded privately held Iberville Developments Ltd. in the 1950s, which became one of Canada’s largest shopping mall owners. He died on Tuesday according to a statement from his son Sylvan Adams. Mr. Adams passed away “peacefully at home, just nine days after we celebrated his 100th birthday,” Sylvan said. “He was a great man, a Holocaust survivor, who never complained, never looked back, only forward, as he worked hard to build a better life for himself and his family.”
Mr. Adams was born Meir Abramovici in Romania on Aug. 2, 1920, to Jancu and Sheina Abramovici. His father was a tanner. “Some families talked Shakespeare at dinner. We talked business,” Mr. Adams told family members according to a recent article in the Jerusalem Post by his son-in-law Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University. “As the historian son-in-law, my ‘job’ was ‘feeding’ him serious works of history, biography, current events. Whenever I threw in a novel, he scoffed: ‘Meiselach’, [trivialities],” Mr. Troy wrote.
From 1941 to 1944, Mr. Adams was interned in forced labour camps by the Nazis. He managed to escape to Turkey and then Palestine, where he reunited with his sister. He joined the Israeli military in 1948 but grew tired of the war and found his way to Canada in 1951. He landed in Quebec City and worked as a tanner before dabbling in real estate. His boss told him to shorten his name to Adams so the company secretary wouldn’t waste time on long-distance calls spelling Abramovici.
Mr. Adams slowly built up a portfolio of apartment buildings before moving into commercial real estate and shopping malls, which were still a novelty in the 1950s. He quit the tannery after a dispute with the owner over an offer of partnership and launched Iberville in 1958. The company would eventually acquire more than 100 properties covering nearly eight million square feet of commercial real estate in Canada and the United States.
Mr. Adams moved to Montreal in 1966 and expanded into financing with the launch of Les Placements Jeton Bleu Inc., or Blue Chip Investments, which specialized in high-risk commercial lending. When the real estate market took a downturn in the early 1990s, Blue Chip acquired dozens of highly leveraged properties that went into default, including the studio in Miami where the television show Flipper was filmed.
By the late 1990s, Mr. Adams’s worth was estimated at $1.8-billion and Iberville owned some of Canada’s largest malls including Carrefour de l’Estrie in Sherbrooke and Les Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City. The company has since sold those malls along with several others and has concentrated on other developments in Canada and the U.S.
Over the years, Mr. Adams and his wife, Annie (née Cohen), became involved in several charitable causes. They helped launch Tel Aviv University’s Adams Institute for Business Management Information Systems and endowed the university’s Adams Super Center for Brain Research. The family also established the Adams Fellowships with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, which provides US$1-million annually to PhD students. Ms. Adams died in 1997 of multiple sclerosis.
Mr. Adams was also predeceased by his long-standing companion, Shirley Zimmerman. He leaves his sister, Alice Even; children, Sylvan, Julian, Linda and Leora; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“His nickname in his native Romania was ‘Solidu,’ the solid one, and that’s exactly what he was,” wrote Sylvan Adams, who lives in Israel, where he is involved with several ventures including the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team. “He waited for me to come from Israel to celebrate his special birthday and chose to check out and say goodbye. His last words to me were, ‘I love you.”
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