The chief executive of Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc. says he plans to take a hard look at issues impacting the shopping center industry as he chairs a worldwide trade group.
CBL chief Stephen Lebovitz is slated to serve a one-year stint as chairman of the 68,000-member International Council of Shopping Centers starting in May.
"That's a big part of ICSC ...taking a look at major trends," he said, citing online shopping and millennials having a more prominent retail role.
CBL'S CHIEF EXECUTIVE
* Name: Stephen Lebovitz
* What: CEO of Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc. since 2010
* Education: Stanford University, Harvard Business School
* Personal: Lives in Weston, Mass.; married, four children
* Activities: Trustee of Milton Academy in Massachusetts; former director, campaign chairman for Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston; former Boston Children's Hospital trust board member
* Recreation: An avid cyclist, he won silver and bronze metals in the international Maccabiah Games last year.
Source: CBL & Associates Properties Inc.
A No. 1 priority for ICSC's government affairs group is making "a level playing field" between brick-and-mortar stores and Internet retailers when it comes to online taxation, Lebovitz said.
"There's no reason to justify Internet shopping not paying taxes," Lebovitz said. "It's not a cottage industry any more."
Congress is considering legislation known as the Marketplace Fairness Act that would grant states the power to tax purchases from out-of-state online retailers with sales of more than $1 million. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has countered that effort by reintroducing the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which would enact a permanent ban on federal, state, and local taxes on Internet access.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers complain they are put at a competitive disadvantage to remote online merchants, even when stores invest in a community, hire local workers and pay property and other taxes.
Lebovitz, 53, said the industry is embracing change with a focus on providing customers with convenience and shopping options -- whether online or at brick-and-mortar stores.
In terms of shopping centers, there's more variety in the types of usages by retailers, he said. That's evidenced by what CBL is doing at Northgate Mall in Hixson as it woos a variety of stores and restaurants such as new additions Burlington and Old Chicago Pizza, the CEO said.
CBL is one of the nation's largest real estate investment trusts and the owner of Hamilton Place mall and Northgate Mall in Chattanooga and Walnut Square Mall in Dalton, Ga. It owns, holds interests in or manages more than 140 properties.
Lebovitz' father, Charles B. Lebovitz, CBL's founder and chairman, served as ICSC chairman in 1996-97.
ICSC has members in 100 countries and a $75 million annual budget, Stephen Lebovitz said. Roughly a third of ICSC's membership is overseas, he said.
"There's a general interest in Americana," Lebovitz said. "Shopping is American, and the shopping mall is, too."
He said it will be a learning experience to see how dynamic the shopping center business is outside the U.S.
"That will be interesting for me to travel the world and represent ICSC," Lebovitz said.
Michael P. Kercheval, ICSC's CEO, said he has watched CBL grow and prosper under Lebovitz' leadership even during challenging economic times.
"ICSC has similarly benefited from his insights and extraordinary energy. I can't think of anyone more suited to leading our organization in the coming year," he said.
Lebovitz has served in other roles with ICSC prior this position, including as divisional vice president for the New England region for many years. He also has chaired ICSC functions in the New England region, and served on the group's executive committee.
Lebovitz, who was nominated for the ICSC post Thursday, will succeed Robert F. Welanetz, global retail real estate advisor for Blackstone Real Estate Partners.
CBL went public in 1993 and today has a market capitalization of $10 billion. Lebovitz' brothers also are heavily involved in the company. Alan Lebovitz is senior vice president for asset management. Michael Lebovitz is executive vice president for development and administration.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.