Stepping into the Jade Signature sales center, with its light, bright interiors awash in white marble, is a transformative experience. It’s easy to forget you are in a Sunny Isles strip mall across the street from the future site, rather than in the gleaming tower already. Standing next to a six-foot model of the property is Ana Cristina Defortuna, one half of the married duo behind Fortune International, and their handful of superlative projects. The most famous of which is their Jade collection of properties.
“In China, people gift jade for good luck. That’s how we chose the name for project,” says the petite powerhouse of the group that includes Jade, Jade Ocean and now Jade Signature, a retro-modern 57 story tower in Sunny Isles designed by Herzog & de Meuron with interiors by Pierre Yves Rochon and landscaping by Raymond Jungles.
As she looks around the all-star project’s sales center, it is clear that Ana Cristina has pride of ownership, and she should; not only is she Fortune International CEO Edgardo Defortuna’s wife, she is his confidante and co-conspirator in love, life and business who helped Fortune grow internationally. She traveled extensively and developed strong connections with many international brokers. “We host them for dinner when they come to Miami, get to know their children and recommend doctors,” she says. In a word, they’ve become friends.
She and Edgardo established Fortune Development in 1998. “We decided to start building our own projects,” she says. For Fortune’s Development division, she selects the designers who work on each project, and collaborates with them on every aspect of the buildings, from the amenities to the décor of the common spaces. Another talent Ana Cristina has is accounting. “Numbers were always my thing, since I was very young,” she says.
Ana Cristina was raised on a large estate in Peru, where she had dogs and horses and enjoyed a lot of freedom to do as she pleased. “I couldn’t wait for the weekend to begin,” she remembers. “On Saturdays, I would wake up at dawn and get the leftover materials that were around the property.” Cuttings from gardeners, bits of wood and roof tiles from repair men, fabric pieces in the laundry were all fair game to beautify her dollhouse. “I think that’s where my love for architecture started, actually,” she says with a laugh.
So idyllic was her experience in Peru that she intended to stay there for college. “I was very close to my parents, especially to my mom,” she explains. That all changed the first time she visited her elder sister, who was in Boston. “I saw this amazing city and visited the university. I saw how the teachers did their lectures: the auditoriums, the books. It was a totally different world. From then on, I decided I could not go back to school in Peru.”
So she attended Boston University, where she double majored in Finance and Business Administration and moved to Miami following school. Interestingly, her parents had moved to Key Biscayne, down the street from a young Edgardo Defortuna.
Edgardo’s father was the founder of the Argentinian Chamber of Commerce and he befriended Ana Cristina’s father, the founder of the Peruvian Chamber of Commerce. Ana Cristina recalls, “He had been trying to get a date with me and I was so horrible because I was just having fun with my friends and thought he was way too serious. He was so quiet and when you’re young, the one that gets your attention is the funny one or the best dancer or the loud one. Edgardo was none of those things. It was hard for me to really get to know him.”
Fate intervened one night when Ana’s father wasn’t able to make a Chamber meeting at the Defortuna’s home and sent her in his stead. This time, when she saw Edgardo, she agreed to a date, and when she went, something clicked. “We’ve been married 19 years now. We’re very, very lucky. I really think I found my soulmate,” she says with a smile.
The couple now has three boys, Andres, Alexander and Edgardo, who they are raising on their palatial Key Biscayne compound. Busy as they are growing Fortune International, Ana Cristina and Edgardo put family first. “We travel with them and take them everywhere. We take them to the projects we are building and they think what we are doing is so cool,” she says. Of course, what they are doing is cool and their Jade Signature tower might just be the coolest.
“We have very important international buyers from around the world,” she says of Jade Signature. “They are CEOs from top companies that came to Miami, saw everything and decided that Jade was the place for them. That gives us incredible pride and satisfaction,” she says. Undoubtedly they fall for the project, but probably also, given the chance, Ana Cristina. Her warm personality, coupled with her experience as a South American coming to the US seals the deal. “In most cases, I’ve been in many countries, which helps. If they’re Egyptian, I’ve been in Egypt. If they’re from Turkey, I’ve been in Turkey,” she says giving an insight to the secret of Fortune’s success and a flash of their secret weapon: Ana Cristina’s broad -and genuine – smile.