Thursday, May 29, 2014

Forest City Enterprises CEO: importance of Greenland deal "cannot be underestimated"; board chairman says our reputation "remains fully intact" and improving

There wasn't any news, really, out of the Forest City Enterprises annual shareholder meeting, held this afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the headquarters city of Cleveland.

But for those of us with a slightly more skeptical view of Forest City, it's always interesting to hear how they talk to (and about) themselves.

"Our whole enterprise for as long as I've been here, and those who came before me, has been built on relationships," said Board Chairman (and former CEO) Chuck Ratner, introducing CFO Bob O'Brien.

Indeed, relationships are why board member Bruce Ratner, Chairman of subsidiary Forest City Ratner, makes strategic political contributions.

"Recent discussions [CEO David LaRue] and I  have have had with some investors have indicated that some are questioning whether we have lost momentum," declared O'Brien a bit later. 

"Be assured," he responded, "we are not losing sight of our ultimate goal, to drive shareholder value." 

Indeed, that is their goal, and they don't seem to mind cheating a bit.

The Greenland deal

LaRue brought up the pending resolution of the Atlantic Yards joint venture.

"We signed a definitive agreement with Shanghai-based Greenland Group for Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which we expect to close by the end of June," he said. "The importance of this closing cannot be underestimated. It jump-starts the balance of our 6400-unit residential development in Brooklyn, which we've been working on for over a decade."

"The value creation opportunity in partnering with a firm such as the Greenland Group allows us to continue that development business and activate and for-profit [sic] these buildings," he said.

FCE's reputation

At the end of the meeting, Chuck Ratner reported on meetings he's had with governmental, financial, strategic, and individual partners, as well visits he's made to new projects.

"I just want to assure all of you," he insisted, "as our shareholders and all of whom have a collective interest in the well-being of our enterprises, that the most important asset we have, our reputation, our name, our credibility, remains fully intact and being enhanced and growing every year."

Well, he didn't show up at the recent hearing on the court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

But if Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner keep getting awards, well, Atlantic Yards may go down the memory hole.

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