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Corporate giant behind new Front Street building

Brookfield has impressive history of real estate development
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In photo: How the new Brookfield building will look on Front Street, in a rendering by architects Bothelo Wood

The demolition work taking place at 91 Front Street this year heralds a rejuvenation for a Hamilton site previously occupied by a boarded-up building.

Brookfield is the company behind the nine-storey development, which will act as the headquarters for all of the company’s Bermudian-domiciled listed affiliates — Brookfield Reinsurance, Brookfield Property Partners, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, Brookfield Renewable Partners and Brookfield Business Partners.

There will also be office space for tenants and retail space on the ground floor, on both the Front Street and Reid Street sides of the building. In his 2024-25 Budget Statement, David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, estimated the project to construct the building would support about 200 jobs over an 18-month period.

What exactly is Brookfield? While Bermudians are accustomed to seeing large offices bearing the name of re/insurance companies, it is unusual to see international companies in other industries owning their own office building on the island.

That’s not to say Brookfield does not have insurance interests — its insurance solutions business, founded in 2020, has already grown to have more than $100 billion in assets under management. Part of it is Brookfield Re, which purchased Bermudian-based Argo Group in a $1.1 billion all-cash deal that closed in November last year. However, insurance is only a small part of the vast global network of Brookfield companies with head offices in Toronto and more than 200,000 employees around the world.

On the face of it, there could be few better businesses on the planet to oversee a real estate development. Brookfield’s real estate division owns more than 500 million square feet of prime real estate around the world, including London’s Canary Wharf.

A rendering of the Brookfield building, showing Chancery Lane by architects Bothelo Wood

The philosophy underpinning these investments is “high-quality properties in the best locations, as well as the strong tenant basis and long-term leases they attract, will withstand market cycles and drive long-term value”.

One of Brookfield’s most remarkable projects is Manhattan West in New York. The eight-acre, mixed-use complex was built on a platform over rail tracks running into Penn Station. It has revitalised the Hudson Yards district with four office buildings, an apartment block, the Pendry West Manhattan Hotel and a 2.5-acre pedestrian plaza, open to the public.

In addition to real estate, Brookfield’s $900 billion portfolio includes infrastructure, renewable energy, private equity, credit and insurance. One of its infrastructure businesses is Triton International, the world’s largest lessor of intermodal freight containers, a Bermudian-based company acquired last year by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners in a $13.3 billion deal.

Brookfield’s connections with Bermuda have attracted some controversy around its tax practices. A report last June by the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR) was titled, “Brookfield’s Bermuda base: is Canada’s largest alternative asset manager dodging global taxes?”

The report stated: “Brookfield’s structure has been described as a cascading ownership pyramid, with local subsidiaries controlled by complex chains of foreign entities with direct investments through individual investment funds ultimately winding up in Bermuda.”

A search of the Bermuda Registrar of Companies website found 282 entities bearing the Brookfield name — 16 more than were mentioned in last year’s CICTAR report. Brookfield Ltd appears to have been the first one to form, with an incorporation date of January 27, 1998.

The International Tax Review, when it reported on the CICTAR report in June last year, quoted a Brookfield spokesman as saying: “We are committed to providing relevant and proportionate disclosure about our tax payments in accordance with recognised reporting frameworks and in a manner that is both informative and transparent.”

The new Front Street building will increase certainly Brookfield’s economic substance in Bermuda. Brian Kingston, chief executive of Brookfield’s Real Estate business, said in March last year when the plan was first announced: “This development is a reflection of our commitment to Bermuda, one of the most sophisticated financial and business markets globally, with access to top talent. We see numerous opportunities for growth in the coming years.”

On its website, the company says in real estate, it has a “focus on ‘placemaking’ —creating places for people to live, work, dine, shop and play”. Bermudians will hope that is reflected in Hamilton.

Brookfield did not answer our requests for comment for this article.

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