Bold, outspoken, brash, decisive, acquisitive, aggressive - all these terms have been used to describe Shmuel Farhi, a consummate dealmaker.
But there is much more to this dynamo than real estate.
He's eloquent about preserving history; an adoring father; generous with charities. He has shaken out over $5 million from friends and business contacts for his pet project, Heart to Heart, Dollar for Dollar, for the Ivey Heart Centre.
Raised in a kibbutz in Israel, Farhi was on a flight to the U.S. to make his mark on the world when he met up with Mary Bray, a London realtor, who convinced him to come to Canada. The duo went into business and he immersed himself in the real estate.
Now Farhi owns many properties (a number he declines to disclose) across Ontario, from Geraldton, in northern Ontario to Windsor. He often buys older buildings, renovates them and rents them out to smaller businesses. The first of these was the St. Thomas Courthouse.
Still the trademark for his company, Farhi has recently rejoined the fight to preserve this landmark.
In London, Farhi knows controversy because of disagreements with city hall and strong stands on preserving heritage buildings while maintaining his right to knock down properties he owns and deems unsalvageable, such as the Capitol Theatre.
What some may not realize is part of Farhi Holdings is dedicated to design-and-build projects, specializing in government properties like OPP and RCMP offices - an integral part of Farhi's money-making ventures.
Panning through shots of a recent trip to Jaffa and Tel Aviv in Israel, with his youngest child - Natan who will soon be two - and partner Nicole Laidler, Farhi points out building after building, saying "Now that's history."
"If we don't respect our past, how can we respect our future?" he asks.
Farhi has two older children, from a former relationship: Ben, 17, will attend UWO's King's College in the fall, and Shehnee (15) who is a student at Lucas. Pictures of his family surround him in his corner office, overlooking Victoria Park and Richmond Row.
Admitting, reluctantly, that he's a bit of a workaholic, Farhi names spending time with his family as his favourite non-work past time. Once a chess champion, he still likes a game, but most nights find him walking Lila, the huge dog that guards Farhi's home and office.
Outspoken and not afraid to toot his own horn - Farhi won the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Award in 2004, among others - he's also ready to contribute to the greater good: "It's important for me to do the right thing for myself and the country."