Lutz M. Strangemann „Billionaire club“ who is a descendent of the Leffers retail dynasty and gives a Interview – Investor, shareholder and CEO „Land Union Group“ Berlin and „Ming Hotels“ in London, Amsterdam, Calgary and Manila. „Movers & shakers“. Finally managed to meet him in his bullet proof Berlin office – the former Turkish embassy in Berlin middle (Mitte Jannowitzbrücke, Märkisches Museum)

The billion euro question! Land Union Group and Ming Hotels

Billionaire club Land Union Fassade 2015 August Strangemann Business Center Blog

With Land Union Group having an active presence in Berlin’s hospitality market its time for us to explore who is behind it and whats to come! It was not the easiest task to arrange for an interview with London based media shy shareholder and CEO Lutz M. Strangemann who is a descendent of the Leffers retail dynasty but finally managed to meet him in his bullet proof Berlin office – the former Turkish embassy! As I make my way into the building I have to pass through a number of receptions and an endless amount of CCTVs until I get to his personal office. I am sure the Turkish ambassador would have been proud to see how is former embassy was turned into Land Unions Berlin office with bespoke everything from beautiful oak wall panels to an 18th century Parisian fireplace setting the scene.

Mr. Strangemann, your local presence in Berlin goes back to 2000 when you set foot in Berlin. What made you decide to invest in this city?

Lutz M. Strangemann: Back then it was both a strategic decision and one of timing. After we sold our retail business in 1989 we were cash strong but skeptical about the prices in Germany which were driven by the reunification boom. In consequence we had our focus at the time on North America and London. As the German real estate market ended in a slump late 90s while London and North America had a strong recovery from their crisis I think we took the right decision at the time. 2000 then again Berlin was massively undervalued and our German portfolio small to what we accumulated abroad so we felt the time was right to set up a presence in Berlin.

What has been your focus and where do you see your local future?

Lutz M. Strangemann: Traditionally we are strong in retail properties which is due to our heritage as retail is in our blood but we diversified in Berlin and cover office and hotel investments as well as a small percentage of residential. We will keep expanding our portfolio and the focus will be to keep a balance in the different use classes. Diversification of risk has value to us. By now we also have a strong operational presence as well which includes a construction company and our hotel management group as well as some other service providers in this segment with over 300 employees which we will expand along our regular core investment activity.

How did you end up with hotels? After landing a few local hits what’s next?

Lutz M. Strangemann: Everything has a story and the one relating to hotels is as often a coincidence. The only exposure we had previously was a share in one of the Leading Hotels of the World that never earned us any money so our appetite for this segment was limited. But when a large German bank approached us to be their Joint Venture partner on a hotel project we considered it and ended up with the property and operation which was an instant success! So we carried on and developed a few more. Our first hotel in London will open up soon and next to the four we currently operate in Berlin there is another two in the pipeline. All quite unique and spectacular – but you wouldn’t expect me to say anything else! As a fact we got the taste of it and our portfolio today consists of a number of hotels which are pure investments or operated by the group.

Your venture into real estate started 1989 when you got 400Mio Marks for the sale of SinnLeffers. How much did you make from this since? As a careful estimate you now exceed one billion? Has Berlin paid off for you?

Lutz M. Strangemann: Our strategies are long term and we have a diversified portfolio in different countries where we enjoy the luxury of a private company that we do not need to value our holding annually and justify our development and progress. Neither do we need to publish results. We are happy with our venture into real estate as such and Berlin is definitely a market that has performed to our expectation. We are not a short term financial investor. Our ambition is to contribute to the local economy and create employment and revenue. Pure financial investments for short term returns are not our strategy.

On a personal note : you live in London, what qualities do you like about Berlin and what is your favourite places?

Lutz M. Strangemann: Berlin has a rich history and a wonderful cultural scene with many exciting art galleries, shops and markets. The lake areas are fantastic and its always nice to experience a new area and its development by taking a little stroll around the “Kiez”. Some of my favourite restaurants are in Berlin too. They have an honest and authentic character which sometimes gets lost in financial metropolis like London or New York. And everywhere you have great outdoor spaces and parks. Berlin is a lovely city and it deserves to grow back and invent itself again as it currently does.