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Success Story Podcast

Gil Dezer – President of Dezer Development | Designing the Luxury Experience

By August 29, 2023September 25th, 2023No Comments

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About The Guest

Gil Dezer has significantly influenced South Florida’s luxury real estate through astute brand collaborations. In partnership with Donald J. Trump, he developed prominent landmarks such as the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences and the Trump Towers. This collaboration not only enhanced the area’s architectural profile but also solidified the Trump Organization’s foothold in South Florida. Amidst fluctuating market conditions, Dezer showcased remarkable financial savvy, settling Trump Royale’s $210 million construction loan and efficiently managing a combined mortgage payoff of $475 million for Trump Tower II and III.

His innovative spirit further manifested in a collaboration with the Porsche Design Group, leading to the erection of a 60-story luxury edifice equipped with a state-of-the-art robotic parking system, the Dezervator. This project, backed by a $214 million construction loan from Wells Fargo, underscored Dezer’s prowess in upscale branded real estate. Beyond the realm of business, Dezer’s dedication to community welfare is evident. He co-founded the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation and is actively involved in various local projects. His career paints a portrait of a leader seamlessly blending professional acumen with genuine community commitment.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 — Introduction: Unveiling the Real Estate Visionary
  • 02:25 — Origin Unveiled: Gil Dezer’s Path to Success
  • 10:03 — School vs. Real World: Lessons Beyond the Classroom
  • 11:24 — Early Triumphs: Decoding Gil Dezer’s Rapid Rise
  • 18:42 — Trusting Instincts: The Key to Real Estate Mastery
  • 19:56 — Bold Beginnings: Tackling Major Projects from Day One
  • 33:18 — Spotlight on Excellence: Sponsored by The Goal Digger Podcast
  • 34:03 — Porsche Fusion: Crafting Luxury through Innovation
  • 41:58 — Miami Reimagined: Post-Covid Urban Landscape
  • 47:30 — Shaping Tomorrow’s Luxury: Gil Dezer’s Vision for South Florida
  • 54:08 — Luxury Brand Launchpad: Gil Dezer’s Gems of Wisdom
  • 55:33 — Beyond the Projects: Exploring Gil Dezer’s Sphere
  • 56:49 — Time-Travel Talk: Advice to Gil Dezer’s Younger Self
  • 59:06 — The Essence of Success: Gil Dezer’s Personal Perspective

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Show Summary: Billion-Dollar Miami High-Rises: A Developer’s Journey Reimagining Luxury

Gil Dezer’s path into real estate differed from most developers. After ending up at the University of Miami for college, Dezer unexpectedly fell in love with the city of Miami and saw unique potential in its real estate market.

He slowly built up expertise working for his father’s hotel business while earning a degree. After graduating, Dezer embraced the challenge of becoming a developer from scratch. Through savvy branding partnerships with icons like Donald Trump and Porsche, Dezer led some of Miami’s most ambitious and mold-breaking luxury projects.

In this profile, Dezer recounts his winding journey in his own words. From leveraging brands to redefine luxury living to navigating devastating economic crises to constantly innovating, he shares hard-won lessons on how vision and hands-on hustle built a billion-dollar empire along the Miami beachfront.

For anyone fascinated by the intersection of design, development, and delivering an unmatched living experience, Dezer provides a masterclass in bringing imagination to life. Let’s dive in.

College Dreams Lead to a Real Estate Awakening

Dezer grew up a city kid in New York never expecting to land in Florida. But as he explains, a chain of unexpected events led him to the University of Miami — and introduced him to his next calling:

“I remember getting on the plane and… I was born in New York and as a New Yorker you’re taught that New York City is the center of the universe and everything happens over there. And so as I got on the plane I remember saying to myself don’t let yourself get stuck here in Miami.”

Of course, the opposite happened. Dezer fell in love with Miami’s people, culture, climate, and ended up building his entire career there.

It was a smart move to listen to his gut. But taking the leap into development still required some urging from his father:

“We owned a hotel and my father said go learn the hotel business, you should work and go to school here.”

Dezer credits these early days of informal apprenticeship for providing the foundation he needed:

“I learned what real business is about — you never understand a business until you’re actually in it and all the surprise expenses and issues…it was on the job learning.”

Eventually Dezer became convinced real estate development was his true calling, not a career in hotels. The turning point came when his father acquired a prime oceanfront site called Sunny Isles in North Miami.

Dezer saw outstanding potential in redeveloping this undervalued land that the lifelong Miami locals somehow overlooked. Though the family lacked development expertise, Dezer’s father displayed the vision and confidence to take a risk on his son.

The Sunny Isles project became Dezer’s crash course in all aspects of development. He embraced the challenge and never looked back.

Launching a Development Career Means Learning While Building

Taking over an ambitious project as a novice is daunting. But Dezer realized construction has existed for thousands of years — he simply needed to master the process hands-on.

Dezer admits his early projects like the Ocean Grand condo tower were a trial by fire education:

“I kind of had a great on the job learning…by the second building I kind of knew what I was doing, by the third it came second nature already.”

The key was finding the right mentors to accelerate his learning curve:

“I also had great people working with me that I learned a lot from — I learned how to build from my architect Charles Seager, he taught me so much on the construction side.”

According to Dezer, excelling as a developer requires embracing constant problem solving. Issues arise daily that require creative solutions:

“My job as the developer is a problem solving/putting out fires kind of guy — everything that has to do with money comes to us because we have to pay for it. There’s a hundred ways to handle every situation.”

Immersing himself in the details proved invaluable. Dezer knows why every design decision was made, right down to the placement of screws. He can walk the site and immediately spot flaws.

This hands-on mentality continues to set Dezer’s projects apart decades later. He ensures quality by sweating the small stuff that inflated egos ignore.

Betting Big on the Trump Branding Boom

In the early 2000s, Dezer made a pivot that quickly put him on the map globally. He partnered with none other than Donald Trump to co-brand a Sunny Isles condo project called Trump Grande Ocean Resort.

The impact was immediate. Dezer credits Trump’s fame for generating press and buzz that money couldn’t buy:

“I had Trump on TV every Wednesday night for The Apprentice — that was the best advertising I could have had. People would come in saying oh I saw him on TV last night and buy units.”

Dezer realized the value of associating with an established brand vs. trying to launch one from scratch. The Trump team brought built-in credibility and marketing.

Over the next decade, Dezer scaled this co-branding model through projects like Trump Palace, Trump Royale, and more culminating in over $2 billion in sales. He locked up the most coveted sites and maximized prices.

The successful formula wasn’t smooth sailing, however. Dezer had to navigate significant economic shocks along the way.

Navigating the Great Financial Crisis

When the 2008 economic crisis hit, Dezer had hundreds of condo presales across multiple Trump buildings under construction.

With the real estate bubble bursting and financing freezing up, Dezer had to salvage his empire. He found himself negotiating directly with banks, lawyers, and buyers to prevent catastrophic losses.

Reflecting back, Dezer is still amazed at how calm he stayed while working around the clock to solve problems:

“I personally got on the phone with every single one of my contract holders…I’d say listen don’t lose your deposit, let me apply it to something smaller.”

He managed to close a remarkable 60–70% of units despite the external turmoil. Dezer refused to lower prices to desperation levels or hand over the keys.

Bringing the Trump properties across the finish line enhanced Dezer’s reputation when competitors failed. It gave him credibility to access financing for new projects as markets recovered.

Dezer partly credits weathering 2008 to an unlikely market — Brazil. As their currency surged, Brazilian buyers jumped at the chance to purchase discounted South Florida real estate leading the recovery.

By 2011, Dezer had fully paid back all his project debts without defaulting. His willingness to roll up his sleeves changed the trajectory of his entire business.

Launching a Branded Luxury Car Culture

In the mid-2000s, Dezer sensed Miami’s high-end real estate market was primed for a dramatic evolution beyond beachfront condos and amenities. The introduction of ultra-luxury car elevators in branded towers gave birth to a new era of prestige living.

It took years of tireless problem solving and regulatory maneuvering to bring the vision to life. But finally in 2012, Porsche Design Tower debuted as a game changing project.

The tower allowed residents to ride their prized vehicles directly into their units for privacy and convenience. As Dezer explains, it perfectly aligned with his target demographic:

“I wanted the coolest thing in the world — your cars in your living room, two cars in your living room…I have my $25 million Ferrari GTO in my living room right in a Porsche building.”

These personalized sky garages created a true sense of arrival that appealed immensely to celebrities and foreign buyers. Residences at Porsche sold rapidly, redefining luxury living standards in Miami forever after.

According to Dezer, Porsche Design Tower also gave developers more architectural freedom by going vertical:

“We were able to sell the garage space as part of the unit and people wanted it…so we took the philosophy of let’s give them free space.”

This breakthrough encouraged Dezer to keep pressing limits. Porsche paved the way for even bolder, boundary-pushing branded collaborations still to come.

Delivering Unparalleled Services and Amenities

As luxury expectations continued escalating, Dezer remained laser focused on making residents’ lives effortless by providing unmatched on-site amenities and services.

He explains his thinking:

“What we needed in Miami to raise the bar was a level of service — so a lot of developers cheated by taking on hotel management companies, which in several cases didn’t work.”

Instead, Dezer personally curated world-class hotel talent to create a five-star condo living experience — without the cost of a brand name or management fee.

As he emphasizes:

“Our buildings are run as high-end hotels without the transient guests.”

This personal approach let Dezer handpick staff and make refinements quickly based on owners’ feedback. He wasn’t wed to a rigid hotel company’s policies.

Dezer also realized developers dramatically underappreciated how tailored, discreet treatment appealed to high-net-worth buyers. Around-the-clock amenities like private chefs further distinguished his properties:

“It’s a building where you never have to leave your unit if you want to be a hermit — you have everything needed right there.”

The goal was making residents feel their every wish is accommodated, much like an exclusive resort.

For Dezer’s latest project, Bentley Residences, he again upped the ante by partnering with Michelin star chef Todd English. This amenity brings a true luxury hotel-level dining experience into owners’ homes.

Future-Proofing Through Constant Innovation

According to Dezer, the only way to thrive long-term in Miami real estate is to perpetually innovate and enhance livability. Developers can’t stand still relying on stale formulas.

When seeking inspiration, Dezer starts by visualizing his own dream residence then works backward:

“Everything I do is as if I was moving in and living in the building myself…I’m a pretty discerning, detail-focused guy.”

He also scouts globally for cutting-edge ideas but vets them through a local Miami lens:

“Dubai tried to play catch up on branding but ruined the concept by overdoing it. I align with brands based on my track record of delivering.”

By partnering only with brands that add tangible lifestyle value, Dezer sustains trust. He rejects short-term gimmicks or shortcuts.

Making residents’ lives amazing also means anticipating their needs before they know it themselves. As Dezer notes:

“Why don’t we have this? Let me tell you something…getting the chef for Bentley was 10 years in the making because I tried for Porsche earlier and couldn’t get it done.”

He never allows complacency to creep in or external pressure to cut corners. Dezer maintains lifelong relationships and views projects as legacies.

This mindset has helped him smoothly ride major real estate cycles by always focusing relentlessly on innovation. Dezer lives for the thrill of bringing imagined projects to life through sheer hustle.

And even after final completion, he stays invested literally by living in his own flagship developments. Dezer experiences firsthand how the lifestyle vision comes to fruition.

Key Lessons from Gil Dezer’s Journey

Over 20+ years, Gil Dezer transformed himself into one of Miami’s most prolific developers through vision, branding brilliance, and always over-delivering.

Here are top lessons from Dezer’s impressive career:

Follow your instincts — Dezer’s entire empire exists because he trusted early gut feelings about Miami’s potential despite zero experience. Don’t ignore intuition.

Build expertise hands-on — Becoming a top developer meant embracing humility and learning by doing for Dezer. Be willing to grind through granular details.

Choose partners strategically — Aligning with big brands like Trump gave Dezer instant credibility and amplified his marketing. Seek out synergistic partnerships.

Lead steadfastly through crises — During 2008, Dezer negotiated masterfully to prevent catastrophic losses. Have courage under duress.

Innovate obsessively — Dezer is constantly envisioning the next evolution of luxury living. Never stop raising expectations.

Sweat the small stuff — Dezer still inspects his towers personally because quality means sweating details. Excellence is a lifestyle, not a slogan.

Take calculated risks — Not every Dezer risk paid off, but smart gambles like car elevators redefined Miami luxury forever.

Stay connected to your vision — Dezer lives in his projects to experience the lifestyle firsthand and keep improving. Stay engaged over the long run.

Far beyond just mastering real estate itself, Dezer models how entrepreneurs everywhere can blend vision, accountability, and resilience to profitably bring imagination to reality.

He stays invested by living in his own landmark developments after completion. Dezer always finds new ways to improve residents’ lifestyles.

Gil Dezer exemplifies how entrepreneurs everywhere can blend vision, personal accountability, and resilience to profitably bring imagination to reality against the odds.

What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategies for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.


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