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Vera Guerin Sells Her Late Father’s Billion Dollar Real Estate Empire

Vera’s father Nathan Shapell was a holocaust survivor who built up a billion dollar real estate empire.

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Women's Guild Cedars-Sinai Medial Center Event

Vera Guerin and Paul Guerin / Getty

Vera Guerin this week finally drew the curtain over an epic story of survival that began in the death camp of Auschwitz during World War Two.

It was there that her father Nathan Shapell her father’s brother, David  and Max Webb, who would one day  also become her Uncle after marrying the Shappel’s sister, Sala, formed an alliance that would last for more than sixty years and would see them as joint owners of one of the most formidable real estate empires in the state of California.

The Shapell Brothers and Max Webb were in their early  twenties, strong and fit enough to survive their time  in the camps. They did so only by their ability to withstand the cruelty of unrelenting physical labor, although many members of their family perished before the camp was liberated in the summer of 1945.

After the War ended,  22-year-old Nathan, along with his brother David, sister sale and soon to be brother in law Max Webb along with a group of Auschwitz gathered their strength and overcame their traumas in order to help the thousands of displaced Holocaust survivors  who were wandering around war ravaged Europe to rebuild their lives.  The Shappels made their base  in Munchberg, in the Bavarian region of West Germany  where they took upon themselves the task  of constructing  housing complexes for tens of thousands of displaced war survivors.

In 1952,  Nathan Shappel along  his wife Lilly along with their five year old  daughter Vera, immigrated to the United States to start a new life.  Three years later Nathan and David Shapell and Maz Webb  formed a construction company which they named  Shappel  Industries which during the fifty years that they were in operation were responsible for developing around  70, 000  private homes and 7, 000 apartments throughout California,  as well as  2.7 million square feet of commercial property.

Nathan Shappel passed away in 2007, in his mid eighties, leaving his only daughter Vera Guerin, his 43 percent stake in Shappel Industries, estimate at that time to be worth around $1.3 billion.

Now six years after his passing, Ms. Guerin has sold a major parcel of her holdings in Shappel Industries, the home building division to construction giant Toll Brothers Inc. for  $1.6 billion.

The deal will see Toll, will more than double the number of California  building lots controlled by them to just over  9, 000, many of them situated along the coast where vacant land is hard to come by. Many of these plots were snapped up by Shappel in the sixties and have been gradually developed over the years.

The bulk of the  remaining shares in the privately owned company  is believed to be held by Vera’s uncles,  David Shappell and Max Webb, who despite being well into their nineties take a very active interest in the day to day running of the business and  still come to the company’s  offices every day.

After the transaction, Shapell Industries  will still be left with a considerable property portfolio, reportedly comprising more than 10, 000 apartments, five shopping centers and four office buildings.


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