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Borrower Perspectives Revisited: Gord McMehen, Conundrum

  • First National Financial LP

In 2000, Gord McMehen founded Conundrum Capital Corporation with two partners. Conundrum is a real estate private equity fund management firm, servicing pension funds and insurance companies seeking real estate investments. The company has launched five multi-family funds and is currently in progress with the sixth, completing the first closing and proceeding with property acquisition.

We first spoke with Gord in 2018 to get his perspectives on First National’s 30th anniversary. Two years later, Gord shares why Conundrum remains focused on high-rise concrete and how First National’s expertise continues to be critical after 30 years.

Q: What has changed most in your industry and business since we last spoke in 2018?
GM: Not much has changed for us. We have the same multi-family mandate of acquiring high-rise concrete and improving rents and building quality. COVID obviously complicated things throughout the industry. For tenants that ran into problems with their rents, we worked closely with them to accommodate their specific situations. We remain diligent about improving our buildings and maintaining high standards. Just like everyone, we’ve had to be flexible and adapt to new ways of doing things to keep our tenants and trades safe.

Q: What are your business goals and what types of opportunities are you pursuing?
GM: We are continuing to focus on high-rise concrete in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton area, including St. Catharines, Hamilton, Toronto, Oshawa and Barrie. For our sixth and latest fund, we have completed the first closing and are in the midst of raising more capital. Finishing that capital raise should take us into early to mid 2021. Our focus for this fund is the same as it was for our last five funds -- acquire a property and do major work to improve rents, building quality and performance.

Q: How is First National supporting you in your goals beyond financing?
GM: We have been working with First National for 30 years. The team there is a first class group, has always been supportive of us and stepped up to help us out when we really needed it. We are looking to do CMHC-insured financing on two of the properties we have under contract for this new fund. First National will definitely be our lender of choice.

Q: What do you value most about your relationship with your originator Brian Kimmel?
GM: My relationship with Brian dates back to the 1990’s. He worked at Central Park Lodges, and I was practicing law at the time. My firm orchestrated a buyout of Central Park Lodges, and Brian was instrumental in helping us with that deal. After that, he moved to First National, and I have worked with him ever since. Brian, like everyone at First National, knows what he is doing and does it well. The whole team is a pleasure to work with, and I am impressed with what we’ve been able to do together over such a long period of time. Our deals are never straightforward, and Brian embraces everything enthusiastically and positively.

Q: What do you believe motivates First National within your relationship?
GM: First National is a confident company with a confident team. I know that I can always rely on the advice I am getting from anyone there. First National is one of the best lenders we’ve dealt with over the years. Stephen and Moray remain passionate about the business. They are dedicated and committed. That passion, dedication and commitment permeates the culture at First National. Since the beginning, First National has been instrumental in Conundrum’s success and growth. The team has made substantial contributions to the evolution of our business over several decades. That is rare in this industry. We have a small group of lenders we trust and rely on, and First National is prominent among them.