Like father, like Trump. It’s a new twist on an old cliché that fits Gil Dezer like a proverbial glove.
Dezer is president of Trump Dezer Development. His father, Michael Dezer, has been developing real estate since before his 33-year-old son was born. And Gil’s development partner, Donald Trump, needs no introduction. Together, they are making a major impact on the Miami Beach real estate market through properties like Sunny Isles’ Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences.
Dezer is one of the youngest developers of high-rise residential condo-hotel developments in the United States. With 27 acres of prime oceanfront property set for redevelopment, including 2,100 feet of beachfront between 158th Street and 191st Street along Collins Avenue, young Dezer holds the power to catalyze the evolution of South Florida real estate.
But Dezer didn’t start out in the president’s office. He wasn’t even set on following in his father’s footsteps — much less Trump’s. Dezer, a Manhattan native, first came to South Florida at age 18 to attend the University of Miami. As Dezer was pursuing his degree in international finance and marketing, his father started buying up property and young Dezer started getting some hands-on training with developers.
“My dad told me to learn the real estate market here, the sales process, the construction process, and where the buyers were coming from,” Dezer recalls. “I was the sales manager at Cosmopolitan in South Beach. I sold timeshare units at the Crowne Plaza in Sunny Isles. I did new construction, high-rise, mid-rise, and conversions. I learned who the movers and shakers were in South Florida.”
Now he is one of those movers and shakers.
The real moving and shaking began when the Dezers joined forces with Trump in February 2002 to build Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences. The project includes the Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort, a 372-unit condominium hotel that opened in 2003; Trump Palace, a 275-unit, 55-story condominium tower that recently opened; and the Trump Royale, a 391-unit, 55-story condominium tower scheduled for occupancy this year.
“I first entered into multiple co-development agreements with the Dezers because I believed the amazing tracts of beachfront property in Sunny Isles Beach contained phenomenal potential,” said Trump. “They are the equivalent of owning everything on Fifth Avenue from 52nd to 57th Street [in Manhattan]. With virtually no remaining prime oceanfront property in Florida, there is no doubt that these projects are going to be great successes.”
As president of the Trump project, Dezer has taken home the Platinum Personal Achievement Award as sales director of the year from the Builders Association of South Florida, for the past three years. He is also president of the Developers Builders Association of Florida , a member of the Aventura Marketing Council and serves on boards of several philanthropic organizations.
Dezer is one of the founders of the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation, a Young President of the Miami Heart Institute, and also works with organizations such as the Florida Friends of Israeli Defense Forces, Project Cradle in Miami, WIZO Florida, and the One Family Fund Organization.
Despite his success, and his influence in the local community, Dezer remains humble and teachable. In fact, Dezer calls himself a “sponge” that absorbs all he can from his dad and from Trump.
His dad, he explains, taught him to think outside the box. “There are 80,000 ways to skin a cat, and you have to think through 40,000 ways before you make a decision,” Dezer says. “The answer is obvious, but there’s always a better answer that’s not so obvious. If you dig a little deeper, you might find it.”
Trump, meanwhile, taught the young developer about the power of energy and the importance of excellence. Dezer says his goal is constant: to build the best buildings in the United States. Dezer actually sits in with architects to think through even the minor details that make a major difference in the living experience, like floor plans that offer the best use of space, the best views, and the best aesthetics. “Too many developers are just finance guys worried about what the exterior looks like,” he says. “We make sure the condo fits well inside the building envelope. People actually have to live there.”
Beyond sitting in with architects, Dezer spends his days thinking about how to skin the cats, so to speak, making decisions about everything from legal matters to financial matters to sales matters. Nothing happens at the Trump projects without his stamp of approval. That means early to rise and late to bed for young Dezer. He may walk from the Trump office to his condo in the Trump Palace at 7 p.m., but his cell phone keeps ringing late into the evening.
Dezer is driven by his passion.
“I enjoy the grind. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Some days you want to bang your head against the wall, but it’s the challenges that make it fun,” Dezer laughs. “If I didn’t have so many responsibilities, I’d probably spend my days at the beach. But it’s a good feeling to see a 55-story tower and think, ‘Wow, I built that!'”
And there’s more to come.
“Growing up in the footsteps of his father gave him great insight and great firsthand learning experiences,” says Elaine Adler, president of Aventura Marketing. “You could study all you want at school. You could pass all the tests and get all the degrees, but until you are in the trenches you don’t know how the real deals go down. Gil knows it. Gil understands it. He has been exposed to this his entire life.
“Gil has taken his own creativity and his own intelligence. Add that to what he has learned from his father and all the people surrounding his father, and you’ve got a winner.
“Those who have the vision and the staying power see today’s market as an opportunity. Because they’ve been so successful in the past, they have both,” says Adler, who works with Dezer on the council that promotes Aventura.
When Dezer isn’t busy changing Miami Beach’s oceanfront landscape, he likes to rally race in Europe, fly radio-controlled airplanes, and otherwise “do nothing” on the beach. Dezer can do the latter with his new wife, Lorena. The Dezers got married last December in Mar-A-Largo with Trump in attendance. Now he is “mentally preparing” himself for the next stage of his life: kids. The family life hasn’t slowed him down yet, though, and with the support of his wife, he doesn’t expect it to. The only thing missing, he says, is a 300-foot mega yacht docked at the oceanfront.
Indeed, Dezer has years of building ahead of him. In 2005, Dezer and Trump partnered with Miami’s the Related Group to build Trump Towers I, II and III. The project includes three luxury 43-story towers with more than 800 units at 158th Street and Collins Avenue on Sunny Isles’ oceanfront. The Dezers also partnered with Trump and Wood Partners to develop Trump Towers Atlanta. “We want to put our mark on the world,” Dezer says.
“We are looking at property around the country, but we are waiting for the world to fall apart and then we are going to step in and buy everything up,” Dezer says, with a smile in his voice. “When that happens, you’ll begin to hear about our new ventures.”