Executive of the Year Spotlight: Lawrence Gellerstedt III

This year, Gellerstedt led a merger with Parkway Properties, a Houston-concentrated office REIT.
Lawrence Gellerstedt III (above) received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Executive of the Year award.

Lawrence Gellerstedt III (above) received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Executive of the Year award.

This article is one in a series of short profiles highlighting recipients of CPE’s Executives of the Year awards. Celebrating its 20th year, the program acknowledges the contributions of commercial real estate’s top executives across all major business sectors and asset types.

First-place winners and honorable mention awardees are chosen by a confidential vote of the CPE 100, an invited group of industry veterans.

Today’s installment offers a look into Cousins Properties’ deleveraging strategy.

Lawrence Gellerstedt III, President & CEO, Cousins Properties Inc.

Honorable Mention: Executive of the Year

Headquarters: Atlanta

Years as CEO: 7

Cousins by the numbers: Focusing on the Sun Belt, Cousins has developed 20 million square feet of office space, 20 million square feet of retail, more than 3,500 multifamily units and more than 60 single-family subdivisions.

Casting a wide net: This year Cousins merged operations with Parkway Properties, an Orlando-based office REIT, and spun off the companies’ combined Houston portfolios into a separately traded public REIT, which operates in all six of Cousins’ core markets. To support the new enterprise, Cousins on-boarded 106 new employees. The merger spin enabled Cousins to enter three core markets in Florida: Orlando, Tampa and Miami. It also established the company’s footprint in Phoenix.

Leasing prowess: In Charlotte, N.C., Cousins owns a 3.1 million-square-foot portfolio that is 99 percent leased. In Austin, the company’s portfolio spans 1.9 million square feet and is 97 percent leased, due in large part to a successful leasing campaign at Research Park V, a four-story, Class A office building whose tenants include Apple, Oracle and Xerox. The amenity-rich office complex features an outdoor courtyard, showers and daily food trucks.

Away from Atlanta: Cousins is reducing its concentration in Atlanta so as to limit its exposure in any one market. To this end, the company closed the third-quarter sale of One Ninety One Peachtree, a 1.2 million-square foot, Class A office building in downtown Atlanta, for a gross sales price of $268 million.

On the horizon: Cousins has tapped CBRE to facilitate the sale of the Forum, a trophy office tower located in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. In an effort to be more responsive to growth opportunities, the company plans to reduce its leverage across its portfolio.