REAL ESTATE PROFILE
Q&A with Mathieu Duguay
Mathieu Duguay, the avant-garde president of Cogir, was a forward-thinker even before he was born.
His parents lived in Rimouski and were dining with friends in Quebec City when Mathieu made his debut, one month prematurely. He still enjoys forcing things to happen and has learned everything he needs to know from mentors — beginning with his father, Serge Duguay, who founded Cogir as a property management company in 1995. Mathieu, 38, believes in synergy. Through the years he has sought strategic partnerships which have contributed significantly to Cogir’s growth.
We met at his office in Brossard.
Where did you attend school?
When I was small, my parents moved to South Shore Ste-Julie. I attended high school in nearby St-Bruno, graduating in 1996.
While was growing up, my father worked a lot. I craved time with him and would accompany him to the office on weekends. I enjoyed hanging out and sitting in on meetings. My dad urged me to attend college, but I had grown fond of the adrenaline rush of the business world and wanted to start working for him right away. The topic of school became a source of conflict.
What happened next?
Cogir’s main client was the Portobello shopping mall, in Brossard. I decided to focus on an area where little was being done — miscellaneous revenues: vending machines, kiddie rides and temporary kiosks. I worked hard and greatly increased these earnings.
One day, in 1999, we received a call from an Israeli company, ElAd. They were buying apartment buildings in Montreal and looking for someone to manage them. My father specialized in retail and felt residential management would be a headache. I saw this as an opportunity and chose to take it on.
How did this decision affect your career?
El-Ad’s owner is international business magnate, Yitzhak Tshuva. He became a friend and mentor. After managing his properties for a few years, Yitzhak encouraged us to invest small amounts in the buildings he was acquiring. My dad was cautious with money; I found the idea exciting — another subject on which we held opposing views.
When I was 24, I persuaded my father to sell Cogir to me. He agreed, having witnessed the passion I had for the industry. Since the day I took over, my dad has been extremely supportive. Today he is 78 and still working with us five days a week.
When I became president, Yitzhak was our biggest client and owned 50 per cent of the company. Cogir’s relationship with El-Ad lasted 15 years.
In 2014, Yitzhak asked me to buy back his portion. It took just 20 minutes to draft our one-page agreement. We signed it, shook hands and hugged.
What about other mentors and partners?
As the sole owner of Cogir, I needed equity and someone who could take us to the next level. I met Charles Ruggieri, a French businessman. He became my new partner and mentor. I have benefited so much from working closely with three great men: my dad, Yitzhak and Charles who generously share their wisdom. I plan to pay it forward someday.
Cogir recently acquired local development firm, DevMcGill. Its president, Stéphane Côté, is another brilliant businessman and friend. They have several ongoing projects — Castelnau, (Jarry Park) Beaumont (N.D.G.) and Noca (Griffintown West), to name a few.
What is next on the horizon?
We are thrilled to have broken ground recently for an exciting 40-storey mixed-use project called Humaniti — an evolved vertical community. It is a stunning series of interconnected structures at Viger and Bleury Streets.
Humaniti will have five components: a hotel, condos, rental apartments, office and retail space. What makes this project unique is that condo owners and renters will have access to all hotel services via a specially-designed phone app. Humaniti will own five electric cars, exclusively for our owners and tenants. The project will be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and WELL certified. (WELL focuses on health and well-being via light and air quality, relaxation and socialization.) We envision completion in 2020.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
I work a lot but my priorities have changed since the birth of my wonderful son, Zak, 6½ years ago. He is the best part of my life.
My wife and I have a passion for wine and enjoy exploring products of different regions.
I am deeply committed to philanthropic endeavours. Four years ago I began fundraising for the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital. Last year we raised $1.5 million; this year’s target is $1.8 million for a new cancer centre.
What puts the spring in your step?
For me, it is all about purpose and the impact we can have on each other’s lives. We must keep talking and listening to each other, because the solution to a problem which seems insurmountable may be one meaningful conversation away.