December 7, 2020

Gilmartin confirms ‘interim’ CEO tag, says there will be new day-to-day leadership at Mack-Cali in 2021

Mack-Cali Realty Corp. interim CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin talked about the past, present and future of the real estate investment trust Monday during a webinar. And, while she said she will continue to have a major role in the company, Gilmartin made it clear that she does not intend to remove the “interim” tag from her title.

“I’m not 100% clear on the timeline, but in 2021 there will be new day-to-day leadership inside of Mack-Cali and I will go back to being chair of the board,” she said.

Gilmartin, who has stepped away from her job as founder and CEO of MAG Partners in New York City to run Mack-Cali, talked about where she saw the Jersey City-based REIT going during a lunch-and-learn webinar moderated by Mary Ann Tighe, CBRE’s CEO for the tri-state area. It was hosted by CBRE Vice Chairman Jeffrey Dunne and CBRE Executive Vice President Jeremy Neuer.

“My decision to serve as interim CEO was not something I anticipated doing,” Gilmartin said. “I was convinced of it when I was asked by the board to do it because it had a timeline associated with it.

“I knew that it was a bit of a rabbit hole and would require substantially all of my time, but that it wouldn’t be something like Hotel California — you can check in, but you can’t check out.”

Gilmartin said she remains committed to Mack-Cali — and that serving as interim CEO will allow her to do a better job as chair.

“My commitment to the company is solid,” she said. “I’m deeply loyal to the team. And I believe, as chair, I will be able to serve people and the shareholders effectively and mightily because I’ve been the interim CEO.

“The nice thing is, I’ve had the opportunity to do this. I will be able to stay with the story and see it out through its completion, and I also get to go home again to my team at MAG Partners, where we have a capital source, we’ve got a building on 28th Street that we’re coming out of the ground building in West Chelsea and we see lots of opportunity through the pandemic.”

Gilmartin said she sees similar opportunity at Mack-Cali.

“I guess the safest thing I can say is that changes are afoot and that we are not going to look the way we look today in three years, if we have anything to say about it,” she said.

And, while it’s no secret that the firm wants to sell off its suburban assets, Gilmartin said there will not be a fire sale — regardless of what public pressure the company may face to do so.

“Selling segments in the business or (joint venturing), or bringing in new capital, just for the sake of satisfying the rally call for change, is not wise,” she said. “You can’t run the company based on what the analysts are saying has to happen. You basically have to look at the company and say, ‘We definitely need to change it up a little bit.’

“Selling suburban is a strategy to make the balance sheet simpler and to produce proceeds so that we can shore up the balance sheet and increase liquidity and reduce debt — those things make a ton of sense. And I believe, all through 2021, we will sell a billion dollars of assets and that will make a meaningful difference on the company’s bottom line.”

That would make for a different company, too.

“You’re left with a residential business that is robust and has extraordinary value,” she said. “And we can keep doing that. We can supersize that portfolio and be a bigger, better version of ourselves. And/or we can be a commercial company that extracts the value that we know exists on the waterfront and we could JV with other commercial operators and owners and be a bigger, better version of ourselves as a commercial landlord. I think either of those two things are possible.

“Having two businesses — a residential business and a commercial business — is a really nice story of diversification, particularly if it’s mostly urban. So, I don’t see it impossible that the company is a commercial and residential landlord. But it has to have a healthier balance sheet, has to have better execution and it needs to have access to greater sources of capital.”