The founder of Canderel Ltd. is stepping down as chief executive after more than four decades of running the privately held Canadian real estate company. The 68-year-old Jonathan Wener, who will remain as chairman of his firm, will hand over the CEO reins to Brett Miller, currently the chief executive of commercial realtor JLL Canada.
Mr. Miller, 54, will be responsible for taking Canderel through its next stage of growth, which will include expanding the Canadian company into the United States and possibly Europe.
The executive changes at the two Canadian firms come as the industry prepares for a potential downturn after a nearly decade-long boom in commercial real estate fuelled in part by ultralow interest rates.
Mr. Wener started Canderel with one property in Montreal in 1975 and built it into a significant real estate player with operations in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Nova Scotia, Edmonton and Ottawa. The company has more than $2-billion in projects under development, including an 80-storey condo near Toronto’s financial district and a residential, retail and office complex across from the city’s Billy Bishop airport on the Toronto Islands.
Now, Mr. Wener wants Canderel to move to the next level. “Once Brett is in place, he is well equipped to take us beyond Canada,” Mr. Wener said.
The Canderel founder, who timed Toronto’s 1990s property bust perfectly by getting out right before the market turned and getting back in before it started heating up, says the commercial real estate market is becoming increasingly competitive.
In addition to expanding into the U.S., Mr. Wener said his successor would add new businesses to Canderel’s current operations of leasing, construction, development and management services.
Mr. Wener would not elaborate except to say: “There will be quite a number of new strategies because Brett has thoughts on new business lines he would like to see us considering."
Over the years, Mr. Wener has thought about taking Canderel public as it would be easier to raise capital. But the founder believes staying private is in Canderel’s best interest because property development takes years.
For Mr. Miller, it is a homecoming and reunion with his mentor, Mr. Wener. Mr. Miller started his career at Canderel and then served as an executive at the world’s largest commercial real estate firm CBRE, where he had run its Eastern Canadian unit for more than a decade.
He then became JLL Canada’s chief executive in 2012 when the Chicago-headquartered company wanted JLL to increase its presence in Canada. Mr. Miller said JLL’s goals were to make the company one of the top three competitors in this country in all the real estate services, from leasing and project management to capital markets.
Today, Mr. Miller said JLL Canada is as competitive as CBRE. “We have the capacity to compete on every file,” he said.
In addition to CBRE and JLL, there are three other major commercial real estate firms in Canada that offer the full suite of property services: Cushman & Wakefield, Colliers and Avison Young.
Mr. Miller said JLL will continue to bolster its Canadian operations. “They will double down on their bet in Canada,” he said.
The CEO changes are expected to occur mid-February. In the meantime, JLL Canada is searching for a new chief executive.
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