In a news release provided for Multifamily Executive earlier today, Atlanta-based Gables Residential announced that President and Chief Executive Officer David Fitch has stepped down as CEO. He has been replaced as CEO by Sue Ansel, Gables’ long-time COO and Multifamily Executive’s 2010 Executive of the Year. Fitch, who is stepping down voluntarily, will remain until the end of the month to handle the transition.
“This is a good time for David to hand over the reins," Ansel said. "We are finishing up a number of existing projects that we’ve been working on and we're getting ready to make plans for new opportunities. We’re in great financial shape.”

The move sparked a reorganization at the top of Gables. Executive Vice President Dawn Severt will continue as CFO, while adding additional responsibilities. Benjamin Pisklak will be promoted to executive vice president chief investment officer and Cris Sullivan will become executive vice president of operations.

“I’m blessed to work with really talented individuals,” Ansel says. “It sends a really great message to our team that we were able to have a succession plan in place. It’s not only an opportunity for me but for several individuals in the organization who have been here for a long time and done a tremendous job. It’s a powerful opportunity for associates to grow and take on responsibility within the organization.” Fitch has led the company since March 2005 when he replaced Chris Wheeler as CEO. The same year, a closed-end fund managed by a joint venture between ING Clarion and Lehman Bros took the former REIT private. Since then he’s led the firm through the tail end of the last rental boom, an industry wide recession when the company had 15 developments in the pipeline, and a resurgence that saw the company start a number of new deals and enter an agreement with an affiliate of USAA Real Estate Co. to develop apartments at urban infill sites.

The change is reminiscent of Arlington, Va.,-based AvalonBay Communities’ announcement last summer when CEO Bryce Blair stepped aside for long-time top lieutenant Tim Naughton. Like Blair, Fitch wanted to leave at the top of the market.

“It is always a tough decision determining when the time is right,” Fitch said in the press release.  “Times could not be more exciting than they are now as Gables is in the midst of launching an ambitious growth initiative.  I felt that it was time for those who have served beside me to take the reins,” he noted.

Stephen Cordes, chairman of the board of directors of Gables commented in the prelease, “We thank David for his service, hard work and success in favorably positioning Gables for the future.   We are fortunate to have tenured and talented leaders within Gables ready to assume new roles.” Mr. Cordes also noted, “Sue is well-respected in the multifamily industry and by investors, joint venture partners and institutional clients and will ensure a seamless transition of responsibilities within Gables.”