On January 22, 1965, mail order pioneer Werner Otto founded ECE – he initially aimed to prevent real estate issues interfering with the thriving Otto Versand. At the end of the 1960s, Otto brought the modern shopping centre concept from the U.S. to Germany. Under the name “Einkaufs-Center-Entwicklungsgesellschaft” (“Shopping Enter Development Company”), the new company first opened Franken-Center in Nuremberg in 1969 and Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum in Hamburg in 1970.
Therefore, ECE’s history is closely connected with the history of shopping centres in Germany as a whole – both have been a success story for 50 years. By extending its business fields to office properties, company headquarters, logistics centres, railway stations, and hotels, the name did not cover the company’s activities to their entirety and was therefore changed to the name under which the independent and autonomous sister company of Otto Group is known today: ECE Projektmanagement G.m.b.H. & Co. KG.
Alexander Otto, the youngest son of founder Werner Otto, took over the helm at ECE in the year 2000. Alexander Otto promoted the international expansion of the company, multiplied the number of managed shopping centres and tapped new business fields for ECE. Today, ECE is the European market leader in the field of inner-city shopping centres with almost 200 centres under management and activities in 16 countries as well as a major developer of other commercial properties.
The company’s portfolio comprises €27 billion in assets under management and projects under construction or in planning stage worth €3.5 billion, among them projects of its business area Office, Traffic, Industries valued at €1.5 billion. Two ECE real estate funds have been set up which specialize in the acquisition of existing shopping centres with value-add potential across Europe.
Moreover, the Otto family has been investing in property developments and has been acquiring shopping centres as well. Renowned investors have acquired shopping centres that were developed or managed by ECE, among them Deutsche EuroShop AG, Deutsche Bank, Allianz, Union Investment as well as pension funds and sovereign wealth funds from all over the world. ECE has evolved from a developer of shopping centres to a redeveloper of real estate properties. Complete refurbishments and the repositioning of existing centres for other investors have gained importance.
As one of few real estate developers, ECE covers the entire life cycle of a real estate property – from planning to realization, operation, and continuous modernization. A long term view and the constant adapting to popular customer wishes are integral parts of the company’s philosophy. ECE centres have been meeting the challenges of e-commerce with innovative services and high quality.
“My father really hit the mark by transferring the concept of modern shopping centres from the U.S. to Germany. I am proud of the outstanding achievements of ECE in the past 50 years. As market leader we are well-positioned in the industry and we are looking forward to the next 50 years,” commented Alexander Otto, CEO of ECE.