In July 2009, the board of directors of Cousins Properties appointed Larry Gellerstedt III CEO and told him to take a fresh look at the company’s direction. “The board
wanted my take on where we were, particularly on the balance sheet,” he recalls.
The board had been considering Gellerstedt as a possible successor to Thomas D.
Bell, Jr., as CEO since 2005, when Cousins acquired The Gellerstedt Group, a two-year-old development company.
Except for a three-year stint as CEO of
American Business Products, a manufacturer
of packaging and printed office products,
Gellerstedt has spent his career in development and construction. Which is a core competency for Cousins.
“Unlike a lot of REITs, we do a lot of development work,” Gellerstedt says. “Also unlike
many others, we’re diversified with 50 percent
of our portfolio in office, 30 percent in retail, 5
percent in industrial and 15 percent in land.
“One thing we are not is a REIT that focuses on portfolio management. We recycle
capital. Between 2003 and 2006, for in-
stance, we sold $3 billion of assets. That’s
who we are: a value recycler of capital.”
What about the fresh look at the bal-
ance sheet? Gellerstedt took Cousins’
debt-to-market-capitalization ratio from
70 percent to 40 percent almost im-
mediately. He oversaw a public offering
that raised $330 million on top of the
company’s 50 million shares. Gellerstedt
believes Cousins is now positioned for
growth through acquisitions.
“In our core markets in Georgia, Texas
and North Carolina, we’ll soon see attractive distressed acquisitions,” he says.
“After that, we’ll begin to see development opportunities to pursue.”F
Michael Fickes is a freelance writer.
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