How are real estate billions made

The largest real estate billionaires in Germany

Did you know that a few billionaires own large parts of Germany's real estate assets? Whether shopping centers in Berlin, high-rise buildings in Frankfurt or housing estates in Düsseldorf, they all have one thing in common; Billionaires and their family offices as owners in the background. No wonder, because real estate has been considered crisis-proof and stable in value for centuries. Even the Corona crisis does not seem to change that, because the principle still applies: 'We always live'.

We have put together a selection of real estate billionaires for you - how many of them do you know?

René Benko (assets: € 5.2 billion)

René Benko comes from a simple Austrian background and has worked his way up to the top of the European Real Estate League with diligence, perseverance and very good contacts. Today he and his Signa Holding not only own the KaDeWe in Berlin, parts of the Chrysler Building in New York, but also Galeria (formerly Karstadt, Kaufhof).

Shari Arison (net worth $ 4.9 billion)

Shari Arison, who is considered the richest woman in Israel and the Middle East, is from Tel Aviv. Her father Ted Arison founded Carnival Cruise Lines, now Carnival Corporation & PLC, the largest cruise company in the world. She had a good instinct for good investments early on and today holds around 38.4 shares in ADO Properties, managed through her family office Arison Group. ADO Properties owns around 18,000 apartments, most of them in Berlin.

Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs (total assets approx. € 3.6 billion)

The two come from Frankfurt, are school friends and founded RFR Holding LLC in 1991. They moved to the United States at some point and now live mainly in New York, where, like in Germany, they own numerous properties. Most recently, for example, they bought the substation in Kreuzberg or the Berlin “Upper West” at the zoo was sold on to Rene Benkos Signa. A total of around 1 million square meters of total commercial space is managed.

Dieter Schwarz (assets approx. € 27 billion)

He is certainly one of the 50 richest people in the world and everyone in Europe knows his Lidl brand. But not everyone is aware that he is also one of the largest property owners in the country. Schwarz Beteiligungs GmbH also controls Schwarz Immobilien Verwaltung (SIV), among others. They are currently involved in a big deal, the takeover of the Real supermarket chain by Sistema and x + bricks.

Kurt Zech (assets approx. € 1.3 billion)

His father Gustav Zech laid the foundation stone for building up a real estate and construction empire. Kurt Zech continued the business and became a billionaire. Today he controls brands such as the Zech Group SE, Art-Invest or the Developer through his Gustav Zech Family Foundation. More than 10,000 employees help with investments, which are wide-ranging, from hotels and other real estate to start-ups. He is the largest real estate owner in Bremen.

Dr. Wolfgang Egger (assets approx. € 0.9 billion)

One of Zech's big competitors is Dr. Wolfgang Egger. In 1984 he founded Patrizia AG, which is one of the largest property owners in Germany today. Several subsidiaries are now active worldwide. His family office AM Alpha controls the fortunes privately. Like Kurt Zech in Bremen, Wolfgang Egger is the top dog in Augsburg. Dr. Egger is his own, a large part of which is currently closed.

The Sahle family (assets approx. € 2.7 billion)

Today represented by Uwe, Friedrich and Albert Sahle, the Greven-based family business, which began with a shoe factory, has become one of the largest private property owners. It should now be almost 23,000 family-owned apartments. The best proof that the continuous accumulation of real estate assets over decades pays off. The Sahle-Holding Familienbeteiligungs GmbH controls the fortunes in the background.

Theodor Semmelhaack (assets approx. € 2.7 billion)

Theodor Semmelhaack from Elmshorn in northern Germany made it just as impressive as the Sahle family, but very quietly and under the radar. He owns over 20,000 apartments that he has acquired over decades, 5,000 of them in Potsdam alone. Nevertheless, his name hardly appears in a list of the wealthy, let alone Forbes or Bloomberg. His family foundation Theodor Semmelhaack controls the administration of the large fortune.

Roger Akelius (assets approx. € 13 billion)

The next member of the club of ten thousand is Roger Akelius, a native of Sweden and one of the richest Europeans. He owns over 50,000 residential units worldwide. He made his fortune in IT and invested it primarily in Berlin. Today he is one of the largest real estate portfolio holders in the capital in exquisite locations from Mitte, via Prenzlauer Berg and Charlottenburg to Kreuzberg. His fortune can only be roughly estimated, but it should far exceed that of the previous players. Here, too, a foundation, the Akelius Foundation, controls the business.

Families Becker, Kries, Westphal and Schrader (assets approx. € 1.4 billion)

Another big stranger as a property owner in Germany is the Becker & Kries family foundation, which today brings together almost 30 beneficiaries. These include members of the Westphal, Schrader, Becker and Kries families. With almost 6,500 apartments not in the club of tens of thousands, the value of the properties is tough: for example, 170 houses are kept in premium locations, including a dozen on the world-famous Kurfürstendamm. Today the heirs live from professional property management and are now also investing in Canada.

Francis J. Greenburger (assets approx. € 3.6 billion)

Another major property owner in Germany is the US billionaire Francis J. Greenburger, who is best known in the US as a real estate developer, art collector and philanthropist. In Germany he was one of the pioneers after the fall of the Berlin Wall and, for example, still owns numerous fillets in the federal capital through his family office Time Equities Inc., including lofts and old factories.

Otto family (assets approx. € 13.6 billion)

The Otto family also play in the first German league, and their Otto Versand made them very fortunate. Today, represented by Benjamin and Alexander Otto, among others, they invest not only in industrial holdings and startups, but also on a large scale in real estate. This is done, for example, by ECE, one of the European market leaders for shopping centers, or via the private family office, Cura Vermögensverwaltung.

Heinz Hermann Thiele (assets approx. € 18 billion)

Heinz Hermann Thiele made Knorr-Bremse the world market leader for braking systems in rail transport. His second passion, the world of real estate, is unknown to many. So he invests billions in his hometown Munich. The Opes Immobilien Group controls its activities as a family office. Preferred asset classes are hotels, offices and residential.

Leonardo del Vecchio (assets approx. € 22.7 billion)

Leonardo Del Vecchio made it from orphan to billionaire and perhaps the richest Italian. He founded Luxottica, the world's largest eyewear manufacturer. In addition, he also owns a blocking minority of 25.1% in Covivio SA from France, which in turn owns around 40,000 apartments in Germany. His family office Delfin Finance controls the business.

Ralph Dommermuth (assets approx. € 2.7 billion)

One of the few successful entrepreneurs to emerge from the DotCom bubble is Ralph Dommermuth, owner of United Internet. He invested his fortune on a large scale in real estate, for example with his brother Rainer through S.K.E.T. Society for real estate management mbH. Dommermuth has a close partnership with the next example on our list, Oliver Samwer.

The Samwer brothers: Marc, Oliver and Alexander (assets approx. € 2.7 billion)

Oliver and his brothers Marc and Alexander play in the same league as Ralph Dommermuth and are even involved today across the board. The Samwers founded Rocket Internet, an incubator for digital businesses, including Zalando. Since the beginning of the first profits, investments have been made in real estate. Today, real estate assets have reached an equal share of equity investments and are invested through the family offices Augustus Capital or Linus Capital, in Berlin alone over a billion.

And who are the largest real estate investors in Germany?

First place on our list of the largest real estate assets is shared by two American billionaires, BlackRock co-founder Laurence Douglas "Larry" Fink and the Blackstone Group L.P. Co-founder Stephan A. Schwarzman:

Stephan A. Schwarzman, Co-Founder of Blackstone Group L.P. (Assets about $ 13.4 billion):

Blackstone manages global assets of around $ 545 billion, around a third of which are invested in an incredible real estate portfolio, e.g. in the Messeturm in Frankfurt or in the Pariser Platz 4 office building opposite the world-famous Hotel Adlon in Berlin.

Laurence aka 'Larry' Douglas Fink

Larry Fink, co-founder of the BlackRock Inc. group (assets approx. $ 1 billion):

BlackRock manages approximately $ 7.4 trillion (!) Worldwide, that's $ 7.400 billion. Lonely world class. Huge real estate assets are held directly and indirectly, as well as through investments in TAG Immobilien AG and Vonovia SE. These two companies alone own 500,000 residential units in Germany.

Both billionaires control an enormous investment fund that is second to none. Those who are so influential usually also have good connections in politics: The possible candidate for Chancellor Friedrich Merz sat on the BlackRock supervisory board until March 2020.