Michel Léonard is the founder, president and CEO of BTB Real Estate Investment Trust, head officed in Montréal, Québec. Michel holds more than thirty years of experience in commercial real estate. He has been involved in numerous real estate transactions in both Canada and in the United States whether leasing, acquisitions, built-to-suit projects and arbitration. These transactions included leasing, acquisitions, strategic planning, development and taking advantage of financial markets to leverage equity.
Michel’s career surprisingly did not begin in the real estate industry. In 1975, he enrolled in McGill University where he earned two degrees. The first was in business administration, and the second was in civil law. After graduating with his law degree in 1981, he joined a law firm and practiced for a while but soon discovered that he wanted to fulfill a different challenge. It was at this time that he decided to move on to the real estate industry.
Michel first began working for a brokerage firm as a lawyer and eventually became president of the organization. In 1989, he decided to open a commercial real estate brokerage firm. As a broker, he negotiated real estate transactions across Canada and the U.S. buying, selling and leasing. Michel credits this experience with giving him the ability to recognize what tenants want in a property as well as the ability to recognize the difference between a “sought after ” and a “less desirable” location. In 2004, Michel’s firm merged with Colliers International, and he remained with them for two years.
Finally, in 2006, Michel founded BTB Real Estate Investment Trust. He started from scratch, drafting a business plan on a plain white sheet of paper. In order to launch BTB as a real estate investment trust, he had recruit investors in order to form a capital pool corporation (CPC). Michel explains that with the required number of investors and a solid board of directors, he could transform the CPC into a real estate investment trust whose units would be traded on the Toronto venture exchange, in Canada. The transformation of the CPC into a trust was granted by a judge in the fall of 2006. This allowed BTB to raise capital in Canadian public markets in order to acquire commercial real estate properties in the provinces of Québec and Ontario.
Although it started from a blank sheet of paper, today, BTB owns sixty-six properties and close to a billion dollars of assets. In December 2013, BTB’s market cap was less than $125M and today it stands at almost $300M. Michel states that BTB’s growth is due to their focus on growing the business by purchasing one property at a time and continuously improving the portfolio. During BTB’s twelve-year existence, BTB has acquired close to one hundred properties and over time and after strategic reviews, BTB sold its less productive assets and its properties located in secondary and tertiary markets to purchase better performing and larger properties. By starting on a smaller scale and adding larger properties over the years, the quality of its portfolio is the best it has ever been. Also, BTB is now concentrating its portfolio in the main cities of the provinces of Québec and Ontario by acquiring only in the Greater Montréal, greater Quebec City and Ottawa areas. Eventually it is their goal to acquired properties in the greater Toronto area.
It comes as no surprise that Michel has earned many awards and designations throughout his career. He says that the highest recognition he has received was in 2015 when he was a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In addition, he currently is the chairman of the board for the governing body of real estate brokers for the province of Québec and has been involved with the regulator for the last eight years. He served on the board of the Québec Bar Foundation where he was a director for six years.
President, CEO, and Founder
BTB Real Estate Investment Trust
1411 Crescent St., Office 300
Montreal, Quebec H3G 2B3