Noticeably unnerved by heights, Gil Blutrich perches on the rooftop ledge of Toronto’s iconic King Edward Hotel – his latest acquisition. The accomplished CEO of Skyline International Development Inc. bought the historically symbolic building with a trio of partners in March. With investments in several cities, Blutrich is used to towering views. “I was dreaming about this, and in a way, I am living my dream … when you reach the peak it’s never looked so high,” he says.
Like the vivid character of the multi-million-dollar properties he possesses, Blutrich’s life philosophy bleeds the reds and blues of romance, nostalgia and humility. “It’s not about big-world success, it’s about the really small things that make it ‘wow.’ For me, I get really excited about the sunrise, nature and great conversations,” says the Israeli-born entrepreneur. As proprietor of the highly recognized Cosmopolitan Hotel and Spa, Horseshoe Resort, Pantages Hotel Toronto Centre and Port McNicoll, Blutrich is known as one of North America’s most ambitious businessmen.
The investment tycoon brings much more to Canadian real estate than a monopoly on hospitality; he emits an emotional veracity to a seemingly cutthroat commercial culture. “One of the amazing things I love about Toronto is its multiculturalism. It’s not about, ‘OK he is from Lebanon and I am from Israel and he is from Pakistan.’ We are just people,” says Blutrich, who finds peace in painting and poetry. “If I can help to do something here, it would be just to open communication, and everyone can find out that we’re just human beings.” His docile disposition and tender approach to business are perhaps what helped him earn Ernst & Young’s prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award for Ontario in 2004.
Making headlines long before immigrating to Toronto 12 years ago, the 45-year-old CEO garnered gazes in Israel when he started his first company at 16. “Nothing came to me easy. I did not inherit any money,” says Blutrich. Less than a decade later he had completed his studies in hotel management and founded Mishorim Development Group Ltd., a public real estate company based in Tel Aviv, that acquires and operates income-producing properties. Despite his outrageous international success, Blutrich still refuses to deem himself as out of the ordinary. “I don’t think I’m that unique. I just came back yesterday from a visit to Israel and it’s like the entire nation is always trying to recreate or create something,” he says. “Sometimes in life, you’re walking through a forest and there are lots of trails – I’m just the guy trying to make my own.”
When Blutrich purchases a multi-million-dollar property, he isn’t simply assessing the monetary accomplishments it can achieve – he’s admiring the historical feats it has already founded. Northern Ontario’s Port McNicoll paints a flawless picture of this altruistic thought process. “This development is actually very exciting, because we will be able to bring life to a port town that actually started to decline when the port closed in 1965,” he says. Embedded in history, the Port McNicoll development is slated to debut its world-class waterfront village by the summer of 2011. “This is, I think, one of our provincial treasures,” adds the CEO, whose company plans to invest $1.6 billion in the boating town over the next 10 years.
The liberty to lounge on the beach or jet-ski to 30,000 Islands is how Blutrich defines the sweet life. “From time to time I try to get away from this very hectic lifestyle and try to reconnect to myself. I think it’s very important for each of us – never mind for business or personal life – to reconnect to our inner being,” says Blutrich, who often travels to India to meditate. A tranquil lifestyle is something he strives to provide for everyone who stays in a Skyline development; whether it’s by creating first-rate spas or adding meditation channels and light dimmers to each room. “I think it’s phenomenal to be able to really relax; especially when you live a really fast-paced life.”
While Blutrich is quite famous for his pricey projects, his devotion to philanthropy is perhaps even more impressive. As founder of a non-profit organization called Bright Future, he aims to encourage challenged youth to become business leaders. “I think it’s our obligation, as citizens in this world, to try and give,” says Blutrich, whose also been extremely committed to helping Toronto’s homeless. “The powers that are positive and really pushing society forward always need to look back, and give a hand to the weaker side to make the entire society strong.”
Blutrich’s faith in humanity was solidified several years ago when his four-year-old son fell into a harbour in Israel. “An Egyptian waiter from one of the ships saw him fall down and jumped in after him and saved his life.” To thank the man, Blutrich went back the next day with an envelope containing a generous sum of money and asked him to accept his gift of gratitude. “He looked at me and pushed the envelope back and he said, ‘No way. I’m sure you would have done the same for my son if you saw that,’” says Blutrich, who ended up exchanging stories and drinking wine with the waiter instead. “No matter what our religion, nationality, where we came from, what kind of class we are, or how much we earn, we are all human beings.”
Though prosperity is certainly synonymous with Blutrich’s stratum of success, it’s something less tangible that drives him. “You’re never satisfied, you always want more. Not because of more dollars, it’s because you want to create more,” says the impassioned developer. Curiosity is what continuously inspires him to push the envelope and infiltrate the infinite margins of imagination. “There are so many things to know and learn and experience in this world that makes this, our journey, so exciting and interesting.”