CBL & Associates Properties Inc.'s new chief executive, only the second CEO in the company's 31 years, said Monday the business is ready to take advantage of an economic rebound in 2010.
"I'm thrilled at the opportunity," said Stephen D. Lebovitz, the 48-year-old son of company co-founder and longtime chief Charles B. Lebovitz.
The Chattanooga-based shopping center company announced that Stephen Lebovitz, CBL's president since 1999, will replace his father as CEO on Jan. 1. Charles B. Lebovitz, 72, who was chairman and CEO, will serve as executive chairman of the board.
The younger Lebovitz said he, his father and John Foy, CBL's vice chairman and chief financial officer, will continue to collectively make major decisions as they have the past few years.
"That will continue going forward," Mr. Lebovitz said in a telephone interview.
Also, CBL announced three other top management changes:
* Gus Stephas was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer. Mr. Stephas, a longtime CBL insider, spearheaded recent cost-saving initiatives, Stephen Lebovitz said.
* Farzana Mitchell was picked as executive vice president of finance. She played a major role in CBL's recent credit line extensions and equity offering, Mr. Lebovitz said.
* Michael Lebovitz, the new CEO's brother, was named executive vice president of development and administration. Formerly senior vice president and chief development officer, his duties will be expanded, the new CEO said.
NEW CBL CEO
* Name: Stephen D. Lebovitz
* Education: MBA-Harvard University; bachelor's degree from Stanford University.
* Career: Goldman, Sachs & Co.-1984 to 1986; joined CBL in 1988.
* Professional: Past trustee, divisional vice president of International Council of Shopping Centers; active in National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts and Urban Land Institute.
Stephen Lebovitz, who joined the company over 20 years ago, said that from a timing point of view, no event forced the change.
"This is part of a transition," he said. "Our priority is to continue our focus on creating value for our shareholders."
Mr. Lebovitz said CBL has grown and become a more complex business. He said he's looking for an improving economy in 2010 and a better year for CBL, which employs 225 people in the city and 900 companywide.
Mr. Lebovitz said he'll spend the majority of his time at CBL's Chattanooga headquarters, but he still resides with his family in Boston.
CBL shares rose 9 cents Monday to close at $9.87, up 0.92 percent. The company's stock price has seesawed over the past year, ranging from a low of $1.92 to a high of $11.17.
Charles Lebovitz said son Stephen has earned "tremendous respect both throughout the industry and within the CBL organization for his expertise and thoughtful leadership.
"With Stephen's continued vision and guidance, we look forward to carrying CBL's legacy of success into the future," he said.
Mr. Foy said Stephen Lebovitz has maintained a critical role in guiding the company's growth.
"I am looking forward to continuing to work alongside Stephen in leading this outstanding organization as we look to further strengthen CBL and capitalize on the next set of opportunities," he said.
CBL is one of the country's largest owners and developers of malls and shopping centers. It owns, holds interests in or manages 163 properties, including 88 regional malls and open-air centers in 27 states.
In November, CBL reported third quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates. CBL reported funds from operations of $68.4 million, or 50 cents per share, in the quarter. That compared to $55.3 million, or 78 per share, a year ago.
Analysts had expected CBL to earn 47 cents per share in the third quarter.