Through vision, a great view

Jon Love says success is being out in front of the curve.

Love is founder and managing partner of KingSett Capital, a private equity real estate company, co-investing with institutions and individual investors.

Prior to founding KingSett in 2002 he was president and CEO of Oxford Properties Group, a business his father began in 1960 in Edmonton, developing mainly office buildings and shopping centres, gradually expanding across the country.

Love grew up in Edmonton, graduated from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario, in London, and then returned to work as a retail broker for Scotia McLeod in Edmonton for five years.

When he was ready for something new, he joined Oxford as a leasing coordinator in Toronto, moved around the company with other jobs in other cities, eventually becoming president in 1989, CEO in 1992.

The recession in the early 1990s clobbered the Canadian development business.   Oxford survived while other companies failed by changing direction to begin focusing on property management. From 1992 to 1994, Oxford had more than doubled the property under its management.

 In 1995, Love took Oxford public. The initial offering at $5 per share (post split) was not a runaway success, but share prices climbed steadily. By 2001, the average share price was over $17.

“Between 1996 and 2001, Oxford completed $6 billion of acquisitions,” Love explains. “We went from 10-million square feet in 1992 to 65- million square feet of properties under our management by 2001.

“We had a leading market share of new investment because we were out in front of the curve,” he explains. “Because we had a view.”

And that view paid off handsomely. In August, 2001, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), came calling. OMERS had done business with Oxford before, beginning in 1990 with its investment in the Canterra Tower (now the Devon Tower), a 45-storey Calgary office building, completed in 1988. In 1998 OMERS bought a 17 per cent stake in Oxford.

Now it wanted the whole company with a $4-billion-dollar deal, offering $23.75-per-share, which represented a 34 per cent premium over the $17.73  30-day average closing price of Oxford’s shares and put Oxford’s equity value at $1.5 billion a far cry from its $104-million capital base valuation upon going public in 1995.

If Love felt any twinge at walking away from the family company, he didn’t acknowledge it. He was quoted as saying at the time, “We did what businesses are supposed to do, which is to create value for our shareholders.”

He also proved the importance of building positive business relationships. A few years ago, he told members of the Urban Land Institute, meeting at the Toronto Board of Trade. ”Relationships are built not on the golf course but around getting things done.”

At that same meeting, he stressed the value of teamwork . “The power of a group is to take on a breathtakingly complex {set of} facts in a hostile environment and find your way through. And he emphasized the benefits of asking questions, listening to others, patience and persistence. “Luck is just an opportunity recognized,” he believes.

Love continues to emphasize those philosophies. In 2002, he started KingSett to do private equity real estate investment with institutional and high net worth clients. The company now has 45 employees and $4 billion of assets under management. Its focus is strictly Canadian investment in office, retail, industrial and multi-residential across the county but most heavily in Ontario and Alberta.

The company invests through its Growth Funds, Mortgage Funds and a core strategy Income Fund, “each with their own risk return strategy but collectively responding to the full scope of reinvestment.”

At 57, not ready to contemplate retirement, Love can still look back at over 30 years in the development business. “The industry grew, dominated by entrepreneurs,” he says. “It’s dominated today by professional management.”

But that doesn’t exclude individual entrepreneurs, he adds. “I continue to see strong participation by a wide variety of people and firms. There’s lots of opportunity.”

Love says commercial real estate, office and industrial building and shopping centres, maintain strong growth across Canada. “It’s a pretty diverse and deep market.”

His home is a downtown penthouse condo, his office on the 44th floor of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, overlooking Lake Ontario and the Island Airport. Having vision can achieve great views.

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