LP Azar buys CD Alexander

To reposition realty company for broader appeal

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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FABRIC giant LP Azar has acquired CD Alexander Company from Musson Jamaica, adding a real estate arm to the rapidly expanding group.

Andrew Azar, managing director of LP Azar, did not disclose the purchase price, but told the Business Observer that more than $20 million was invested to bring one of Jamaica’s most recognised realty companies under the vast LP Azar umbrella. The transaction was finalised three weeks ago, and the company has already been relocated from downtown Kingston to Marescaux Road, near the LP Azar Group headquarters and subsidiary company KingAlarm Systems.

"Growing up, C D Alexander was the premier name in valuation, real estate sales and auctions," Azar noted.

"For whatever reasons they have fallen off, but that’s the past. We are going to revamp and rebrand the company; get it younger, hipper, sexier for the new generation," he said.

C D Alexander was under the control of Musson since 1987. Founded in 1944, the company is noted for being one of Jamaica's oldest and largest firms of real estate brokers, auctioneers and valuers. According to the company’s website, founder Bobby Alexander set up the entity to provide an across-the- board service for everybody in Jamaica, dealing with every aspect and type of property.

However, the real estate firm arguably developed a reputation of catering more to the well-heeled. Azar is on a mission to clear that tag and is in the process of repositioning the company in the marketplace.

"CD Alexander has a reputation for being colonial, stuffy, upper class, for the ‘big man’ only, and that is the exact opposite of how I built my business," Azar said.

One of the first projects the company’s new owner has planned is to market a home with a purchase price under $2 million. To this end, the company is collaborating with Keith Edwards, principal of Free Form Factory, a local producer of Expanded Polystyrene building products, known for being very manageable, mobile and cost effective.

"We are going to be working closely with (Edwards) because we want to put out a home that is under $2 million, that we will build to put on a piece of land that you own," Azar revealed.

"It’s a passion of mine. A man in Jamaica shouldn’t have to be wealthy to own his little ranch, and that is what we are trying to do," added the businessman, noting that a prototype for the under $2 million house will be out soon.

Azar added that C D Alexander has also made links with Jamaica National Building Society and other mortgage providers, allowing the company to include financing as part of its product mix.

"We are going to try to help you own your own property," he said.

"We are going to employ new sales agents and staff to get back C D Alexander to number one."

The CD Alexander acquisition is part of an aggressive expansion thrust by LP Azar, which was founded by Andrew Azar’s grandfather as a wholesale fabric company in the 1960s.

Along with textiles, LP Azar’s primary businesses now include home furnishing, furniture and security (KingAlarm). The group acquired Pablos two years ago to add a retail arm for its fabrics. What’s more is that the firm recently started a frozen yogurt franchise, Tutti Frutti, in the Loshusan supermarket in Barbican acquired Somerset Falls in Portland.

The upshot is that the company has seen its staff complement grow from eight employees to over 1,000 with its latest acquisition, according to Azar.

"We are diversifying the brand and what I am most proud of is that we employed eight persons when we started 50 years ago and now employ over a thousand people," he said.

"While a lot of other companies nowadays are gun shy and scared, we are very bold and brave in investing," he added.

Though he admits that the CD Alexander acquisition is a "large gamble", Azar said he is unperturbed about venturing into new territory in a stagnant real estate market.

"Life is a gamble and I believe you must always look to try to do something different," Azar said.

"Just in the same way you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do my business, I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to be in the real estate business, I can learn it just like you," he continued. "I have very basic principles in business. I am the vendor of goods or services and the customer must be treated as number one, with respect; give him a good deal, give him a credit to survive."




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