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Property visionary Alec Wapnick steps down as executive chairman

3 Oct 2011

South African property sector stalwart Alec Wapnick, at the age of 79 and after some 55 years in the property industry, will step down as executive chairman and director of leading JSE listed property companies Octodec Investments Limited and Premium Properties Limited from 30 September 2011.

A visionary and exceptional man, Wapnick has made a valuable and significant contribution to property development in Pretoria, Johannesburg and surrounds over the years.

A highly respected property leader who has made an immeasurable contribution to the South African property industry, Alec is as ingrained in the property industry as the skylines of our cities.

A pioneer of listed property investment in South Africa, Alec has also led a number of specialised areas of commercial property development and investment in the country.

Alec is esteemed for his mentoring leadership, and has helped forge the careers of many of today’s South African property leaders. It is widely agreed that his passion, integrity, fair and considered approach and his work ethic have been an example to all with whom he has worked.

Born in 1932, Alec matriculated at Pretoria Boys High in 1949. Thereafter he joined a firm of chartered accountants as an articled clerk. Alec holds the degrees of BCom and CA which he obtained from the University of Pretoria. He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1956 and commenced practice as a public accountant.

In order to procure work for the fledgling practice, Alec formed a number of property syndicates with friends and associates, which purchased income-producing properties that his accountancy firm then managed and administered.

Having established a reputation in the property industry, in 1968 Alec left the profession and formed City Property, with his clientele consisting of the members of these syndicates.

Making his mark on the property industry by undertaking the redevelopment of Pretoria West into a productive light industrial and warehouse node, Alec pioneered the mini-unit in South Africa.

Alec was instrumental in the creation of the landmark Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, being responsible for the site assembly and development of the first two phases of Brooklyn Mall. He also undertook the management for this prize South African retail property asset which, over the years, has been highly sought-after by astute property funds.

He also led the way with value shopping in South Africa, developing Woodmead Value Mart, which has gone on to become one of the most successful developments of its kind in South Africa and gave birth to some of today’s leading retailers, including Hi-Fi Corporation and Incredible Connection.

Since its inception over 40 years ago with some six staff members, Alec, has been the cornerstone of City Property, a residential and commercial property management company which today counts two JSE-listed property investment companies, Premium Properties and Octodec Investments, amongst its major clients, in addition to a large number of private clients. City Property now employs nearly 400 people and its managed portfolio comprises more than 600 buildings and well over 1-million square metres.

The exciting challenge and process of building Premium Properties and Octodec Investments and listing them on the JSE in the early 1990s, and then growing their assets to a combined value of approximately R7 billion, is one of the highlights of Alec’s career.

Alec also pioneered the conversion of redundant and derelict office blocks in Pretoria CBD into secure and desirable residential accommodation.

After perfecting his model in Pretoria, armed with his belief in the life of the inner city of Johannesburg, he took his successful recipe of regeneration to Johannesburg. He has also, in joint venture, embarked on similar projects in other areas, including Kempton Park.

Alec’s contribution to upliftment in our city centre’s is substantial. When corporate South Africa fled the CBDs of Johannesburg for Sandton and Pretoria for the city’s eastern region, City Property remained committed to CBD users.
In Alec’s eyes, the city centres still demonstrated vibrant life and a full future, and he remained passionately committed to urban renewal – both to the physical and social fabric of the cities by providing quality, well-run accommodation in which residents can be proud, comfortable and secure. Over the years he has built and converted over 4,000 brand new CBD flats and, in addition, City Property manage a further 6,000 residential apartments in the Gauteng CBDs.

A driving force behind Alec’s commitment to urban regeneration was his understanding of residential tenants. The success of his initiatives has disproven the prevailing misconception that residential tenants are problematic in terms of occupation and eviction issues. Alec believes that by providing a quality product, it also provided tenants with dignity in an environment they could enjoy and respect, and has put in place management systems which foster this.

His commitment to sustainable, long-term urban upliftment is further demonstrated by the fact that City Property constructed the residential apartments and retains ownership and management – seldom selling any property.

Bearing testimony as a recent example is the R600 million mixed-use green-field development which City Property undertook in Hatfield, Pretoria, The Fields which includes some 700 residential units, retail, a hotel and offices, and is situated proximate to the new Hatfield Gautrain Station.

The development has sprung from a formerly problematic area, known for its undesirable proliferation of drugs and drinking spots. Alec envisaged something better for the area. A number of buildings housing these activities were demolished as part of the development which today provides a world-class mixed-use metropolitan city environment.

Alec describes converting dilapidated unused office blocks into desirable and safe rental accommodation for thousands of people as most gratifying.

Alec furthermore developed various well-known industrial properties and retail developments in Pretoria and Johannesburg, both on behalf of the two listed funds, as well as private clients.

Alec’s contribution was recognised in 2003 when the Pretoria Business Chamber named him Pretorian of the year. During 2008 Alec received an honorary award from the Johannesburg Development Agency in the category: Believing in Joburg for his contribution to regenerating the Joburg CBD. He was furthermore awarded the TuksAlumni Laureate Award for 2008 which is the highest award of the Alumni of the University of Pretoria.

Alec’s affection for buildings, landscapes and the city of Pretoria, is also expressed through his love of art.

He has a keen interest in art and his 300m² private gallery is home to some of South Africa’s greatest painters such as Pierneef, Wenning, Frans Oeder, Erich Meyer, Walter Battis and others who lived in Pretoria. The gallery offers a journey through the artistic life of Pretoria by capturing the buildings and landscapes in and around the city.

Combining his love of art and property, Alec has a deep appreciation for architecture and the importance of historic buildings. He loving restored a number of heritage buildings to ensure their preservation, relevance and continued use and enjoyment. Among these is the magnificent Tudor Chambers on Church Square in Pretoria, and the beautiful Wits Technikon building in Johannesburg’s fast-revitalizing inner city.

Alec leaves the stewardship of Octodec Investments and Premium Properties in the capable hands of the boards of directors and the management company City Property Administration which has been in business for over 40 years.
Jeffrey Wapnick, who has made a tremendous contribution to the growth and development of both Octodec and Premium in his capacity as Managing Director of the companies, will continue in his current capacity.

Sharon Wapnick, non-executive on the boards of Octodec and Premium since 1994 and who has a wealth of experience in the property industry, will assume the position of non-executive chairman of Premium and Octodec with effect from 1 October 2011.

Alec intends to continue to be active in the property industry in City Property Administration where he will continue to be Chairman and focus on suitable acquisitions for Octodec and Premium.

“I take this opportunity to thank my family, the boards of directors, the staff of City Property Administration and my colleagues and associates for all the support and encouragement they have given me over the years,” says Alec.

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