After 33 years at Essex Property Trust, Keith R. Guericke, president and CEO, announced that he will step down on Jan. 1, 2011. Guericke will continue to serve as the vice chairman of the board and serve as a consultant to Palo Alto, Calif.-based Essex. Michael J. Schall, Essex’s senior executive vice president and chief operating officer, will become president and CEO.

"Throughout his tenure at Essex, Keith's strategic vision and strong leadership have driven Essex's growth and success. He has developed a culture of achievement, assembled a strong executive team, and has been a prudent steward of the company's resources," said George M. Marcus, chairman of board in a statement.

Guericke will be missed by analysts as well. “Keith is a great guy, effective leader, and has a superb track record,” said Haendel St. Juste, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW), an investment banking and security brokerage firm based in New York.

But the industry seems to have faith in Schall, who has served as CFO, COO, and on the board of directors for the company. Analysts, for one, approve of the promotion. “While Keith's retirement may surprise some, we believe Mike's leadership and the depth of the bench provide a sense of continuity,” said New York-based Sandler O’Neill + Partners in a written report.

“For more than 20 years with Essex, he has been front and center with investors and analysts for some time now, so I don't think they'll miss a beat,” St. Juste added. “Schall is one of my favorite people in this business.”