Alexander & Baldwin Taps New Sheriff

Come Jan. 1, this Hawaii real estate giant will welcome a new leader.
Christopher Benjamin, Alexander & Baldwin Inc. (PRNewsFoto/Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.)
Christopher Benjamin, Alexander & Baldwin Inc. (PRNewsFoto/Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.)

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

For Alexander & Baldwin Inc., there’s a new CEO in town—or at least there will be soon. Christopher Benjamin—currently president & COO of the Honolulu-based commercial real estate and agriculture company, and president of its real estate subsidiary, A&B Properties Inc.—has been tapped by the board of directors to serve as chief executive when Stanley Kuriyama retires from the position on Dec. 31.

A&B, Hawaii’s fourth-largest private landowner, didn’t look beyond its front door for a new CEO; it found what it was looking for right under its nose. “Recognizing the talent and capabilities of our employees is important to A&B, and this announcement represents the execution of an established succession plan to ensure a smooth leadership transition,” Kuriyama told Commercial Property Executive. “Chris has been a driving force behind shaping the company’s strategy and direction since he joined A&B 14 years ago and has been integral to the company’s many successes.”

Benjamin joined A&B in 2001 as director of corporate development and planning, and climbed quickly up the executive ladder. In 2003, he became vice president, and the following year he was promoted to CFO, a position he held until 2011, when he was promoted to his current role.

Benjamin’s tenure as president & COO has been fruitful. He has managed a whopping $900 million in commercial properties, developments and other real estate investments in Hawaii, and played a large role in repositioning the company’s portfolio through the migration of its Mainland assets to the Aloha State. Since becoming COO, A&B’s source of net operating income from its Hawaii assets has grown from 42 percent to 80 percent. And the list of achievements goes on. But there’s more to Benjamin than the work. “Beyond his many accomplishments, Chris cares deeply about developing and supporting the success of our employees and the success of Alexander & Baldwin,” Kuriyama added.

Kuriyama will leave big shoes to fill. Under his reign as CEO, which commenced in 2010, A&B separated its real estate and transportation businesses in a move that created two of Hawaii’s largest publicly traded companies, and invested in excess of $1.2 billion in Hawaii real estate. The company has grown by 70 percent within the past three years. But there’s every reason to expect more of the same with the transition.

“Because of Chris’ heavy involvement in setting the company’s current course, we do not foresee any significant changes to A&B’s strategy and focus,” said Kuriyama. “There may be adjustments or new pathways that develop as a result of executing the current strategy, but A&B’s overall strategy will remain the same.” That strategy includes maximizing value in the company’s legacy holdings and investing in superior real estate opportunities outside of them; maximizing value in its commercial portfolio, including the continued migration from the Mainland to Hawaii; and investing in complementary businesses that further A&B’s strategic objectives.

“Under Chris’ leadership, A&B will remain one of Hawaii’s business leaders and Hawaii’s premier real estate company,” Kuriyama concluded. “He takes very seriously the tremendous legacy of the company and intends to extend and expand that legacy, striking the right balance between charting a new course and staying true to what helped A&B thrive over the past 145 years.”

Kuriyama will stay on at A&B as executive chairman. Benjamin will officially step into the CEO position on Jan. 1, 2016.