July 31, 2021

Dan Gilbert, the billionaire who wants to resuscitate Detroit


4 min

Placed in bankruptcy a few months ago, the city of Detroit could benefit from the arrival of a savior. Dan Gilbert, billionaire from the city, has already spent 1.3 billion to buy and revitalize the city.

  • Through his companies, Dan Gilbert buys buildings and entire neighborhoods in Detroit.

    Credits: Image: DR

  • Ranked 126th fortune in the United States, Dan Gilbert would have spent $ 1.3 billion in 36 months to buy land and real estate in downtown Detroit.

    Credit: Image: Bill Pugliano / AFP

More than $ 1.3 billion invested in three years in real estate. And all in the same city. Still, American billionaire Dan Gilbert didn’t get his hands on the Santa Monica waterfront or the skyscrapers of New York. No, this 51-year-old wealthy businessman has been buying up, plot after block, for three years, downtown Detroit. In 36 months, a quarter of the downtown area has passed into the hands of the one Forbes ranks 126th in American fortunes, with no less than thirty assets acquired.

Dan Gilbert does not make financial follies so far: the boss of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans waits for the prices of goods to fall and are at their lowest to buy them back at a lower cost. Then, it finances rehabilitation works and leases them to companies. But it is not satisfied with this action on private land: it also wants to restore the confidence of those involved in economic and commercial life. However, the rampant insecurity and the unsuitability of public spaces were among the main handicaps of Detroit in recent years. Hence a population increased from 1.8 million to 700,000 inhabitants.

Video surveillance, security guards and space creation

To remedy this, Dan Gilbert has taken surprising steps. For security, he installed a vast network of cameras for video surveillance and also finances security agents in all the sectors acquired. For attractiveness, it carried out urban restructuring, destroying certain buildings to create places on the model of European cities. It is in these places that he hopes to see a commercial life flourish and restaurants, bars, clubs and places of life very soon. “The water and electricity infrastructures are in place. If we free these lands from ruins, reinstall schools, a police station and rebuild houses, we can do it. In five to seven years, the city will have changed completely. I can feel it! ”Promises Dan Gilbert.

If Dan Gilbert is so sure of it, it is because he has another lever than his own funds: as part of the policy to revitalize the urban fabric, the municipality of Detroit has set up a program with several tens of millions of dollars piloted by a committee on which sits a certain … Dan Gilbert. Objective of this program: to encourage the population to settle in neighborhoods with high development potential, to raze the ruins of abandoned buildings and factories, and to seek investors ready to get involved in the revival of what was once the world capital. of the automobile.

Personal motivations of a philanthropist

With his $ 3.9 billion fortune (according to Forbes), Dan Gilbert could serve as an example for many investors. He says that “(his) goal is to build something, not to earn money”. And to highlight his childhood memories in a city that vibrated to the rhythm of the assembly lines of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The man is also renowned for his philanthropic inclinations: funding for medical research in Washington DC, Cleveland and Tel Aviv, active participation in foundations aimed at supporting public transport (particularly in Detroit).

But there is no question of forgetting profitability: there have been many acquisitions for three years and a pause has now been observed. “It is not finished! Even if for the moment we are digesting what we have acquired over the past three years ”. This should also leave him some time to manage the various sports clubs he has got hold of in recent years in ice hockey, basketball and American football. But also to explain the meaning of his action, as here in an interview with Forbes.