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SA

Farewell to intuitive property dealmaker, Marc Wainer

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MOIRA SCHNEIDER

These were the words of Jordan Wainer in tribute to his late father, property mogul Marc Wainer, who passed away aged 71 on Monday as a result of a heart attack.

Sadly, Jordan, who lives in Australia, was unable to attend the funeral on Tuesday of this industry icon who started off his career as a greengrocer, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“Today, I begin the rest of my life poorer for not having my best friend and confidant a phone call away, but richer knowing that my parents are reunited and can continue their 40+ years together. Over the past eight months, I have watched him take each day as a battle to survive without his darling wife by his side,” Jordan wrote in a LinkedIn tribute.

“I believe that for all his unyielding strength, he ultimately succumbed to a broken heart.” Wainer’s wife, Lesley, passed away eight months ago.

“Dad taught us all so many invaluable lessons which will be shared and reshared for generations to come,” Jordan’s tribute continued. “If you had the privilege of working with him, you would know that for him in business, a handshake was enough, and of course finding good people and backing them wholeheartedly was the key to his success.”

Wainer, who grew up in Sydenham, Johannesburg, was the recipient of the Absa Jewish Achiever Listed Company Award in 2013.

He was a close friend and business associate of the Ellerine family for 30 years, businesswoman Dionne Ellerine told the SA Jewish Report. Wainer had worked in the Ellerine Bros offices for the past six months since retiring from Redefine Properties which he founded in 1999 and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2000.

Redefine became South Africa’s second biggest listed property fund, with Wainer overseeing deals from Australia to Eastern Europe without ever having a formal education, according to BusinessLive.

“He was an intuitive dealmaker in the property industry,” Dionne recounts. “He would work out the details on the back of his cigarette box and afterwards, when the commercial teams analysed it, their figures would tally with his.

“He was my dad’s [Eric Ellerine’s] partner for 30 years. We never had a written contract between us – he was the most honest partner,” said Dionne, a director of Ellwain Investments, the property company the two families founded together.

Eric was, in fact, quoted on the cover of the book Making my Marc: Lessons from a Life in Property that Wainer wrote, saying, “Marc Wainer is one of the best dealmakers in the South African property industry that I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with.”

Said Dionne, “His word was his bond. He always used to call bankers ‘crooks in suits’,” she laughs, “yet he worked closely with them. That was Marc.

“He had the ability to take very complex issues, make them simple, and find the opportunity in the deal.”

One of the best deals Wainer was involved in over the years was the purchase of the Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town for Hyprop and Ellerine Bros.

Wainer had a heart attack ten days ago, had stents inserted, but succumbed to a second heart attack on Monday morning. “When I spoke to him on Sunday, he said he was bored,” Dionne said. “He was raring to go – we had so many deals on the go. He had more energy now than he had ten years ago.”

Wainer was Dionne’s mentor in the property industry, and they sat on many industry boards together.

“Poland was his passion in terms of property investment,” she said. “He said he wished he had found it ten years earlier.

“He was even more active in that area since his retirement.” Due to this interest, some in the industry dubbed Wainer ‘Marco Polo’!”

Wainer was generous with advice and mentorship, giving back a “tremendous” amount in line with his desire to make South Africa, to which he was deeply committed, a better place. His Mentorship Challenge was the vehicle through which he channelled his efforts in this regard.

“It was his passion to impart knowledge to people in the property industry,” Dionne said. Wainer’s son, Jordan, writes that with all his accomplishments, “he wholeheartedly felt that his greatest legacy was his work with the Mentorship Challenge and inspiring the next generation of leaders and change makers.”

At an early stage of his career, Wainer displayed his characteristic “path less travelled” approach. In 1973, he was appointed manager of the Kempton City Shopping Centre, one of the first of its kind in this country.

He later said that he got the job because he was the only candidate who had actually researched the centre before his interview.

Dionne said that Wainer was an “amazing” father who “really looked after his children. He spoke to them a few times a day – he would even take calls from them in the middle of a board meeting.

“He is going to be sadly, sadly missed,” she said. “It’s a loss for me personally, and a loss for the property industry.”

He is survived by four daughters, Stacey and Hadene in Johannesburg, Jody and Kerry in Australia, Jordan, and 10 grandchildren.

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