The Dealmaker

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

When New Times first contacted her for this story last October, Laquer said she was flattered but hesitant. "People who don't know me have this preconceived notion of me flying off to Paris every weekend and spending all my time at Bal Harbour, when in reality, put me in a canoe on a lake or put me in a movie theater with a big box of popcorn and I'm happy," she confesses. "I am so easy to please. And my needs are very few. I live very well. I'm very happy to have a beautiful home, and I enjoy all the other materialistic toys and things that everybody else does. But that's not what really makes me happy. What makes me happy is being with my folks and being with my friends and being out in a simple situation. I'd rather go to a cabin in North Carolina in the mountains than to the Côte d'Azur or somewhere else in Europe."

Although sometimes loquacious, Laquer is not easy to comprehend. During brief telephone conversations, voice-mail message exchanges, and two short in-person interviews over two months, a complex picture emerges. She is energetic, voluble, polite, gracious, and humorous. At one point she offers to stand atop a pyramid of construction workers at the Ritz-Carlton site. But Laquer remains elusive, denying repeated requests to observe her work, citing a commitment to protect clients with absolute confidentiality. At times she tried to control the reporting process, perhaps as she guides real estate negotiations. She is both reticent and demanding. For instance she declines to detail her commercial property holdings. "I don't know whether I want to disclose that in the article," she says sternly. "I'd like to keep the broker hat on. We could allude to some investments that I have. I am a limited partner in a number of investments." One of her major clients, Palm Beach-based real estate investor Stuart "Neil" Fisher, also encourages the omission. "I am partners with her in several ventures," Fisher acknowledges. "But she primarily is a broker, and I think that's where the article should go." He then offers a ringing endorsement of Laquer's talents. "I've been dealing with brokers for 30 years and on a scale from one to ten -- I've never met a ten -- she's an eleven. She's a dynamo."

It also is telling, perhaps, that Laquer became extremely upset when informed that against her wishes, New Times had interviewed her mother, a Nazi death-camp survivor. "I laid the ground rules!" she yelled, referring to a request that New Times not mention her parents wartime experience. "What is wrong with you?" She then called the newspaper's editor to complain.

A portrait of the real estate agent as a young woman: During an Eighties visit to Paris, Laquer poses at the address where she lived as a toddler
photo courtesy Edie Laquer
A portrait of the real estate agent as a young woman: During an Eighties visit to Paris, Laquer poses at the address where she lived as a toddler
Laquer angles for freshwater fish when she needs a break from luring developers
photo courtesy Edie Laquer
Laquer angles for freshwater fish when she needs a break from luring developers

But on this Wednesday morning in her luxurious office, Laquer is her usual charming self. "You're going to kill me, but I am so late for a lunch meeting," she says, hinting the interview is over. She gets up to shake hands and offers a caveat about her outfit, which is on the cusp of businesslike and sexy. She says she usually dresses more conservatively but this evening, after a fifteen-hour day, she's stepping out. "I'm going to the Forge tonight," she notes with a smile. "The way I used to dress, I looked like a man. Then one day I decided the hell with it. I'm a woman. If they don't like it, tough."

Welcome to Edie Laquer's pinnacle. If you are considering trying to scale it yourself, good luck.

Edie Laquer was born in Paris in November 1948. Before that happy occasion her parents had endured unimaginable sadness and ineffable terror. During the Thirties Laquer's mother, Peggy, spent her early childhood in Zawiercie, Poland, where her family operated a men's clothing store. Peggy was just a child when her mother died. Then in 1939 when Peggy was eleven years old, the Nazi army began its attack. Peggy's family was Jewish; she was taken to Auschwitz along with her father, stepmother, sister, and two brothers. A third brother went to another concentration camp. A fourth brother, Mietek, fled to Russia. "I would have to sit with you for at least a week to tell you things," she says, then offers a litany of atrocities she witnessed. She lost a friend who threw herself against an electric fence to escape the horrors. "It's impossible a human being can go through so much and survive."

When the war ended in 1945, Peggy and her sister were the only members of the family who had survived the camps. Allied troops relocated them to Munich, where they stayed at a relief facility for war refugees. There they met Peggy's soon-to-be husband Michael, a Warsaw native who was the only member of his immediate family to make it out of the camps alive. The two soon had a daughter and moved to Paris, where Michael had cousins. The family rented a row house. "Without money after the war, it was really hard," Peggy laments. "It was a problem over there if you weren't French. Very hard to get a job and very hard to get a place." In 1948 a second daughter was born to the couple. They named her Edith.

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