The founder of RioCan REIT says it wasn’t a straight path to success as he navigated complex world events to build his company into one of the largest real estate investment trusts in Canada.

Edward Sonshine, now chairman at RioCan, spoke with BNN Bloomberg ahead of his induction into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame this week about challenges he faced throughout his business leadership career, and his thoughts on the current real estate landscape.

Starting out, he said it was tough to convince people to invest in real estate in the 1990s as Canada was coming out of a recession. He weathered other unexpected challenges until he stepped down as CEO in 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sonshine told BNN Bloomberg that gathering the right team of people at his business was crucial, but challenging at times.

“It takes a few tries to get the exact right team around you,” he said. “You need a serious-sized team with all the right skills to be able to build Riocan from under $100 million in 1994 to more like $14 billion today.”

As for his perspective on the current state of real estate, Sonshine said he sees retail as a particularly strong segment, because Canada’s population is expected to grow through immigration and new residents will need places to shop for groceries and other goods, as well as places to live.

While it’s more expensive to get into the real estate business now than it was 30 years ago, Sonshine said it’s possible for young entrepreneurs with good ideas. He said he still sees Canada as a good place to build a business, and real estate as a promising sector. 

“I remember saying to somebody back in the ‘90s, ‘People are always going to need a place to live, they're always going to need a place to shop, and more than likely, they'll need a place to work,’” he said.

To watch the full interview with Sonshine, click the video at the top of this article