Ashner, Witkoff propose new board members for New York REIT

Dissident investors’ proposal intended to derail REIT’s merger with JBG
June 27, 2016 03:53PM

From left: Michael Ashner and Steve Witkoff

Michael Ashner and Steve Witkoff want to replace several of New York REIT’s board members — the latest attempt by the dissident investors to scuttle the real estate investment trust’s merger with JBG Cos.

Ashner, chairman and CEO of Boston-based Winthrop Realty Trust, and Witkoff proposed a new five-person slate of candidates Monday, Bloomberg reported.

The two — who own shares of New York REIT through their WW Investors LLC — are among the five candidates, along with Gregory Hughes, principal for investment firm Roscommon Capital LP; James Hoffmann, a former partner and senior vice president of asset manager Wellington Management Company; and Neil Koenig, co-founder of the accounting firm Imowitz Koenig & Co.

Through WW Investors, Ashner and Witkoff have opposed New York REIT’s merger with JBG, which would create an $8.4 billion company with properties in New York and the Washington, D.C., metro area. Instead, they want the REIT to sell off its assets and return cash to stockholders.

New York REIT has 19 New York assets, including a 49 percent stake in the 1.8 million-square-foot Worldwide Plaza on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, as well as 1440 Broadway, a 750,000-square-foot tower south of Times Square.

“As a result of NYRT management’s many misjudgments, including its disastrous decision to approve the JBG transaction, we have absolutely no confidence in the ability of this board to unlock the significant value that remains trapped in [New York REIT] shares,” Ashner said in a statement Monday.

WW Investors projected that the combined company’s stock would trade for up to $5.71 – a fraction of New York REIT’s $9.34 share price as of June 23.

On Monday, Ashner and Witkoff urged the board to move up its annual meeting, now scheduled for Oct. 24, ahead of the JBG transaction. [Bloomberg] – E.B. Solomont