The Dealmaker

Possibly the most influential person in Miami's ongoing facelift is a Paris-born, Toronto-raised workaholic named Edie Laquer

Because this is her typical morning, Edie Laquer is a very unusual woman. She arises from the exquisitely carved wooden bed in her opulent Coconut Grove penthouse at 3:00 a.m. After a workout, she dresses in a black turtleneck, black blazer, and black skirt. With her kinky auburn and blond-streaked hair cascading onto her shoulders, she climbs into her leased 1996 beige Jaguar four-door, then drives alone through the early morning darkness to a building on Brickell Avenue. She walks across the maroon carpeting of her office, passes a wall covered with sales-award plaques, and arrives at her desk by 4:30. On a table nearby sits a small bronze sculpture of wild-haired woman dramatically pointing a bow and arrow skyward. Like Diana, goddess of the hunt, Laquer (pronounced la-CURE) assiduously stalks her quarry. First she organizes and files paperwork so nothing is on her large wooden desk but projects for the day. "It's total quiet," she notes with pleasure. "Just me and the traffic." She studies aerial photographs of properties she is preparing to sell, writes up real estate descriptions and correspondence to clients, and designs brochures. Everything is under control. But soon the real world arrives. By 8:00 a.m. her secretary is fielding phone calls at a rate of ten per hour.

By 11:30 on this Wednesday in March, Laquer has been on the job seven hours but still is full of energy. She pulls a large plastic-coated photograph of downtown Miami from a file drawer in her neatly arranged desk. "My whole life is aerials," she moans playfully, a braided silver chain with a small teardrop-shape pendant hanging against the fine, ribbed cloth of her turtleneck. With long pink fingernails, she points to a vacant bayfront parcel she is marketing for Boca Raton developer Ned Siegel. Asking price: $25 million. "Jane, can you do me a favor and bring me another stack of One Miami brochure?" she asks her secretary, referring to Siegel's plan for a high-rise residential, office, and retail complex at the foot of Biscayne Boulevard. Then she describes her biggest client, Hank Sopher, a parking-lot mogul from New York City for whom she has assembled $100 million worth of vacant lots along Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard. His holdings are by far the most extensive of any downtown landowner she represents. "He doesn't buy anything with a bed or desk in it," Laquer explains wryly. "All he sees is parking. He sees it landscaped, lit, striped, and parked."

Once a young cosmetics entrepreneur in Toronto, Laquer, now age 51, has changed the face of downtown Miami. She is one of a small network of people -- brokers, investors, developers, architects, and city planners -- whose collaboration over the past twenty years has developed Brickell Avenue into an international business center. Since her arrival in Miami in 1979, this obsessive, driven, savvy, glamorous woman with a taste for fine cars has brokered lucrative deals in areas including Coconut Grove, Brickell, and old downtown north of the Miami River. She has displayed a keen ability to prosper, whether the real estate market is in boom or bust. Pick a high-profile deal and odds are good Laquer brokered it: from the Brickell Concourse office building in the early Eighties to CocoWalk in the late Eighties, to the ill-fated Brickell Pointe luxury condo project (a.k.a. Miami Circle), to the currently ascending Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove, and dozens of properties in between.

Laquer's legwork has preceded the building of prominent urban landmarks such as CocoWalk and the Yacht Club condominium tower in Brickell
Steve Satterwhite
Laquer's legwork has preceded the building of prominent urban landmarks such as CocoWalk and the Yacht Club condominium tower in Brickell

Last year she cleaned up at the local real estate industry's version of the Oscars. She won six of seven Pinnacle Awards presented by the Commercial Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches. Three accolades include top seller of office buildings, retail complexes, and commercial land. She took home another for earning the highest income. And she garnered the Workhorse Award for logging the greatest number of transactions in 1999.

Laquer does not disclose her earnings but she does boast of more than a half-billion dollars in property sales over her twenty-year career; with commercial real estate commissions averaging between two and six percent of a sale, she has likely earned between $10 and $30 million -- plenty of dough to retire in luxury. So why does she continue to rise at 3:00 a.m. and clock 70 or more hours per week on the job? "That question always astounds me," says Laquer. "First, why would I stop doing what I'm doing? I mean I'm perfectly capable and healthy and able to continue working. I would never put myself in the same category as [billionaire chairman of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., Wayne] Huizenga, but it's like saying to somebody like Huizenga -- and again please make it clear that I do not put myself in the same echelon -- 'Why do you work?' Why would anyone say to anyone who has done well in their particular area of expertise: 'When are you going to retire?'" She quickly offers an explanation. "I think it's because I'm a female... The question is asked of me most often by males. In fact totally by males. And I think it's because they haven't gotten over this gender issue. And I think maybe they think some women are in it to reach a certain plateau financially and then they are out of it. And then we escape and go and have our nails done all day long or we have our pedicures done or God knows what. I always reverse it and say, 'Well, you're doing well, why don't you retire?' and that kind of brings the conversation to an abrupt halt."

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