Right now, the job of an apartment REIT CFO isn’t easy. Fundamentals are floundering; there are maturities that need to be pushed back; and new sources of capital need to be cultivated. It’s enough to challenge even experienced industry CFOs. But at Memphis, Tenn.-based Mid America Apartment Communities (MAAC) and San Francisco-based BRE Properties, new CFOs will be taking the reins.
Both moves were in the works for awhile. When BRE CFO Henry Hirvela resigned last November after only six months on the job, COO Ed Lange took over on a temporary basis. Now, John Schissel, previously CFO for Carr Properties, a small Washington, D.C., office REIT, will be taking over. BRE was familiar with Schissel because he served as BRE Properties' lead investment banker at Wachovia.
“[Schissel] has a stellar reputation,” says Paula Poskon, a senior research analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., a Milwaukee-based wealth management, capital markets, asset management, and private equity firm. “He is a former banker and is completely knowledgeable. He has been around the REIT world a long a time and been around real estate a long time.”
At Mid America, the REIT has been preparing for longtime CFO Simon Wadsworth's departure for three years. Current executive vice president and treasurer Al Campbell will be taking over for Wadsworth in January 2010.
“Al Campbell has been with MAAC for over a decade and is a capable and logical replacement for Simon,” says Andrew J. McCulloch, an analyst for Green Street Advisors, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based consulting and research firm. “Importantly, Al is MAAC’s point person for its agency relationships and is already fully involved in all activities surrounding management of the company’s balance sheet. All-in-all, we don’t see the departure of Simon from the CFO role as having a material impact on MAAC’s operations.”
Campbell expects a smooth transition into his new role. “I’ve really focused in the last few years on preparing [for the new role],” Campbell says. “I have big shoes to fill. Simon is an outstanding CFO. He thinks about the future, and he’s prepared both the company and me very well.”
Part of that preparation was fortifying the company’s balance sheet. The firm has taken care of its 2009 maturities and has about $50 million to refinance in 2010. It has about $160 million in borrowing capacity. “We’ve done a lot of work to put our balance sheet in a very good position,” Campbell says. “We’re as strong as we’ve been, while a lot of companies are playing defense with our balance sheet. They’re plugging holes. We’ve worked hard to out ourselves in a good position.”
Now that Mid America’s in a solid position, Campbell expects to focus on distressed buying opportunities, maximizing the firm’s updated technology systems, and seeking new ways to generate capital.
“The one thing that may change is how we finance our business,” Campbell says. “We’re looking at what’s the right platform for Mid America as we move forward. We’ve had a 100 percent secured financing base over the past 10 to 12 years. What is right for the future? The thing that will challenge me over next couple of years is to make sure that as we grow, we continue to keep the best, most flexible, loosest financing platform.”