As Archstone-Smith's buyout by Tishman Speyer and Lehman Bros. comes to pass, a panel on REIT privatizations provided an insider's look into how the change from public to private ownership?and vice versa?can affect corporate strategy and the tactics of multifamily executives and their operating teams.
Moderated by Jeffrey Goldberg, managing partner of New York City-based Milestone Group, the "Public vs. Private" session featured David Fitch, CEO of Atlanta-based Gables Residential and Gregory Mutz, CEO of Chicago, Ill.-based AMLI Residential, who both offered their take on the rigors and rewards of Wall Street.
While both panelists were quick to point out that being a public company made their organizations' operations much more disciplined, both also questioned the fundamental philosophies behind multifamily REITs. "I think the natural ownership of real estate is a private ownership," Fitch said. "I expect that we will see more privatizations after a six- to nine-month shakeout."
Mutz agreed, adding that although "being in the public glare makes you take your game up," he's enjoying spending less time on REIT-typical audits and ethics meetings. "I'm back in the daily real estate game," Mutz added. "It's just a different job."
Both Fitch and Mutz said that the key strategic advantage to being a private company was the ability to invest aggressively in acquisitions and development pipelines-standard multifamily moves traditionally discounted by Wall Street analysts.