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Glassdoor: inside Forest City, in New York and Cleveland, rumbles of concern

A recent article in the New Yorker on the inside-the-workplace site Glassdoor prompted me to look at reviews of both Forest City New York (aka Forest City Ratner) and its parent Forest City Realty Trust, at least its headquarters in Cleveland.

The reviews are hardly definitive, notes the New Yorker's Lizzie Widdicombe: "Any one review on Glassdoor, like any single restaurant review on Yelp or product review on Amazon, may be misleading, useless, or unhinged." Indeed, those who choose to post reviews generally cluster at the very positive or very negative scale.

So we should take these anonymous reviews with some significant grains of salt. But they might indicate some trends. I'd say they indicate rumbles of concern in a company, and office, that has been going through reassessment, even upheaval.

That upheaval, if we believe a Bloomberg report yesterday, means Forest City Realty Trust may be sold to Brookfield Asset Management, a firm large and sprawling enough (according to a Bloomberg reporter) to absorb Forest City's range of assets.

In November, the firm Equity Commonwealth was said to be in talks with Forest City Realty Trust. The point is: the situation is in flux, and Forest City is open to mergers, dispositions, and other corporate changes.

Forest City NY 

For example, the most recent review in New York, posted last September by a current veteran employee, gave an enthusiastic five-star recommendation, citing "Great team of developers. Strong family feeling in the office," while acknowledging, "Many changes in the company."

After the most recent layoffs, the changes have continued.

By contrast, a review last April from a former long-term employee gave a mixed three-star review, citing as Pros, "There are still some great people who work at the company and in the past they've built some amazing projects."

The Cons, though, were pretty brutal: "Now, the company is just a regional office of a larger entity based out of Cleveland... looking to lower costs with no regard for people or product."

A five-star review from a long-term former employee in February 2015 called it a "well run organization." The Cons included "Low turnover and job security" attributable to slow change. That is surely no longer the case, given layoffs and high-profile departures.

Forest City in Cleveland

Forest City operates nationally, but I only checked the reviews from those working at the Cleveland headquarters. Several are quite mixed, and there are positive ones, but the negative ones relate to the company's recent changes.

A one-star review posted in October by a former long-term accountant--presumably laid-off--cited the severance package as the only Pro.

Regarding Cons, the ex-worker wrote:
Staff is demoralized. Management is all about their own incentives... A hundred year old company stripped for parts and plundered. Tragic and wasteful.
That's pretty grim, but Forest City has been selling off pieces, aiming to streamline its operations and focus on office and mixed-use projects. However, it also might sell larger pieces, merge, or otherwise further diminish its former identity.

Another former employee wrote a two-star review last June, citing working "in a great department with a great team," but offering another grim warning in Cons:
It didn't take long for me to figure out that the company wasn't trying to grow anymore, but looking for ways to sell off chunks of the business piece by piece. 
Another two-star review, from September 2016, lamented:
The real estate visionary leadership of the Ratner family has been replaced by executives focused on accounting and finance and have been selling off key assets of the company company. 
Note that the leadership of the Ratner family in New York has been blamed for significant company losses.

Then again, in December 2015, a former employee offered a five-star review:
A great Real Estate Company to work for. Going to a REIT structure is definitely the right move.
On that one, time will tell. It likely will be good for shareholders. For workers, the upheaval means a greater potential downside.

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