Edie Laquer, the mega real estate broker whose unflinching deal-making has been transforming Miami’s skyline since she arrived here from Toronto in 1980, is keen on succeeding at her next project.
For once, it doesn’t involve assembling land deals. Or poring over zoning code. Or hiring bulldog legal teams. Or rising at 3 morning after morning, decade after decade, in order to edge out the competition.
“My new project, finally, is me,” said Laquer, who retired from commercial brokering about five years ago and focuses now on her philanthropic work and on buying her own investment properties. “I finally found the time to be able to hire a personal trainer. And to travel. And maybe even to meet someone special someday.”
Ocean Views and Shoes
She leads you through her recently renovated condo at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, which took several years to complete. In 2013, she bought two fifth-floor units at the St. Regis for $6.75 million, combining them into a 5,000-square-foot showcase of a home for herself and her pampered Coton de Tulear, Frenchie. The place is a sweep of blue ocean against rare, earth-tone marble, dark wood, glittery Swarovski crystal lighting, and plush furs, suedes and leathers.
There are views of the Atlantic from every room, including her Hollywood Regency-style master bedroom with its tufted, beige-suede bed, draped in dramatic coyote fur. Step further inside her boudoir and you’re met by a dream of a dressing room, the designer gowns arranged just so behind glossy closet doors, the collection of silk scarves taking up a serious amount of real estate. Showcased in open, mirrored shelves are some of her most prized evening purses and shoes.
“I love shoes. Well, who doesn’t? But I really love shoes. Apparently also scarves,” says Laquer, who is also into Bentleys. Currently, she gets around in a “flame-orange Bentley that the valet guys here call The Pumpkin. I bought it for the sound system. I just love music, and it has amazing sound.”
Determined to Achieve
Laquer has been attached to numerous landmark development deals in Miami, totaling about $5 billion. They include assembling eight blocks in the blighted Park West neighborhood for the upcoming Miami Worldcenter project, the sale of Florida East Coast Railway’s 56-acre tract for Midtown Miami, plus endless projects in the Brickell area, the Biscayne corridor and Coconut Grove. She assembled the land for the Grove’s Ritz-Carlton, built in 2002, and for Cocowalk. In 2013, she sold her condo at South Beach’s Continuum, originally purchased for $5.4 million, for a record-breaking $13 million.
She chalks up her successes to everything she learned from her parents, both Holocaust survivors who lost most of their loved ones to concentration-camp atrocities and met in a post-war relief facility in Munich. They had their first child in Munich, a daughter they named Maria, and soon after moved to Paris, where they had Edie. The family, close to penniless, relocated to Toronto in the 1950s. Laquer’s mother, Peggy, eventually opened a bridal shop, and her father, Michael, succeeded in the mortgage business.
“My dedication to my career came out of the work ethic of my parents,” said Laquer, who was married briefly, years ago, and otherwise has kept her focus on her business. “Because my parents went through so many horrendous things, everything I have done in my life I have done for them. I wanted to be a great student and a great daughter and make them as happy as possible. That’s what’s made me so determined to achieve. That’s why I don’t take ‘No’ for an answer.”
Over the years, she has also cemented a reputation for not letting anyone in the development game get the better of her, even when it has taken years of litigating. “It’s a tough business, but it’s tougher when you’re the only woman in a game of powerful men,” Laquer said.
Gift of Giving
Laquer may have been born in Paris and raised in Toronto, but she considers Miami home, and it’s the city she wants to give back to, she says. She’s been involved for years in endless charitable projects, among them the United Way of Miami-Dade, The Miami Project/Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, American Jewish Committee, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and others. This year, she gave a $1 million gift to Legal Services of Greater Miami to endow an attorney’s chair focused on women and children’s rights. Late last year, she gave $5 million to Miami Jewish Health to help create a state-of-the-art residential complex for the care of people with memory-related disorders.
She always knew she’d make it big. And then give back. “The opposite of philanthropy is tyranny,” she likes to say, a reference to the horrors her parents suffered. At 19, she and a friend started a successful cosmetics business in Toronto, which three years later had 250 employees selling products throughout Canada. Laquer sold her interest in the company early on, looking for something bigger. Soon after, she went to a party where she met the man who would be her mentor in the real estate development business.
“He was looking for a protégé,” Laquer said. “I was interested in big business, and he was building skyscrapers. I learned at his elbow. He was much older than me, and some people thought he had another motivation. But he just wanted to teach me the business. He would pick me up at 3 or 4 in the morning in his light green Rolls-Royce, and he would say that to succeed in business, you had to give yourself a head start. I guess that’s how I learned to get up so early.”
Figuring it Out
Laquer unofficially mentors the occasional young woman, usually daughters of friends and colleagues looking to break into a variety of businesses.
“But I can usually tell right away if they have what it takes. I’d say it’s street sense,” Laquer said. “For example, so many times I’d have two high-powered men in a room who needed to like each other. The deal wasn’t going to get done unless they aligned. Eventually, I figured out that I could sit in the same spot in my office, in such a way that the men would have to face each other. I would take a pad of paper and sit there doodling, looking down, so they had no choice but to look at each other instead of at me.”
Before you depart Laquer’s condo, she takes you into the cigar room — with its marble fireplace, modern, saddle-leather armchairs and giant chandelier — to show you her stash of Cohibas and Monte Cristos. She doesn’t smoke, but she likes to be able to offer them to guests.
So, what if the right gentleman came over and wanted to actually smoke one of those gems in her cigar room?
“I’d make him go outside.”