DDR Taps Incumbent as New CEO

DDR Corp. has chosen a new "sheriff" from within the "town."
David Oakes

David Oakes, DDR

 By Keith Loria, Contributing Editor

DDR Corp. has named David Oakes as its new CEO and member of the board of directors, replacing former CEO Daniel Hurwitz, who left the position towards the end of 2014.

Oakes had previously been the company’s chief financial officer.

“After a thorough and robust search process, the Board is confident that David is the right person to lead DDR into the future,” Terry Ahern, DDR’s chairman, said in a company release.

Earlier this week, in his first quarterly call as DDR’s president & CEO, Oakes shared his input on the nomination.

“While the past months of uncertainty have not always been easy, the people in this organization remain loyal and have continued to perform like the top-notch professionals that they are,” he said during the call. “I look forward to working with them and taking this company to the next level in the coming years.”

The 36-year-old Oakes joined DDR in 2007 as executive vice president of finance and CIO. Over the ensuing years, Oakes was promoted to SEVP of finance, CFO and president.

In the latter role, Oakes’ responsibilities included capital markets, transactions, budgeting, tax, investor relations, funds management, property and corporate accounting, audit, external reporting, information technology, corporate governance and employee compensation and benefits functions.

As CFO, Oakes completed more than $15 billion in transactional volume and executed on a five-year plan to restructure the balance sheet by reducing debt/market cap and debt/EBITDA, increasing debt duration and prudently raising FFO payout ratio.

Oakes graduated with a degree in economics and finance from Washington University in St. Louis and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. Prior to his time at DDR, Oakes served as senior vice president and portfolio manager at Cohen & Steers Capital Management, overseeing the firm’s global and international real estate securities portfolios; was a research analyst in global investment research at Goldman Sachs.

On the earnings call, Oakes addressed his new role and the direction of the company in 2015.

“I obviously worked closely with Dan (Hurwitz) on strategic matters for a number of years and certainly support, very significantly, the direction we’ve gone. I think what we’ve accomplished at DDR over the past several years has been very significant and has worked very well,” he said. “For us, it’s how do we take the next several steps in that direction to get to blue-chip status. I do think there is continued progress to be made, both on the portfolio and the balance sheet.”

He also talked about an increased focus on the efficiency of the organization. With the portfolio nearing management’s 97 percent leased target (4Q14 was 96 percent with another +25bps – 50bps anticipated for this year), management indicated that baseline NOI growth would stay around the 3 percent range with upwards of +/-100bps swings from re-tenanting/redevelopment. He added the focus would be on redevelopment and proactive re-tenanting to increase and provide a boost to the baseline.

“We are pleased to announce another quarter of strong results and we remain confident that we are well-positioned and excited about the opportunity ahead,” Oakes concluded on the call. “With a focus on excellence in execution, our team looks forward to continued success for DDR and its stakeholders.”