06/23/2023 | by Nareit Staff
CBL Properties’ Katie Reinsmidt

Katie Reinsmidt serves as executive vice president—COO at Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL Properties (NYSE:CBL), a position she has held since May 2023. In addition to overseeing the operations of CBL’s portfolio across 22 states, driving strategic growth initiatives, focusing on enhanced analytics, financial performance, and operating efficiencies, Reinsmidt also oversees CBL’s investor relations, ESG, and corporate communications programs.

What are some of CBL’s strategic growth initiatives that you are most focused on right now?

Since we emerged in late 2021 as a newly capitalized organization, our strategic goals have focused on further simplifying and strengthening our capital structure, enhancing operating performance to support our strong free cash flow, and thoughtfully investing in opportunities that both strengthen our portfolio and generate value for our shareholders.

The recent volatility in the financing markets and rising rate environment has increased the hurdle rates for investing new money, driving innovative deal structures when we’re evaluating new opportunities. A great example of this creativity is the success we’ve had monetizing available land around our properties to form new partnerships. CBL contributes an existing land parcel to a new non-retail joint venture, establishing our equity position in the partnership. The structure allows CBL to de-risk new development, densify our existing assets, and participate in value creation—all while preserving our strong cash position.

We are also spending time looking externally to evaluate where distress can expose interesting opportunities to create value for our shareholders. These may include one-off, portfolio level, or corporate transactions. All the work we’ve done over the past several years to strengthen our organization and capital structure positions CBL to opportunistically pursue this type of growth.

You have held several positions at CBL since you joined. How does this support you in your new role as COO?

My career path has really been the ideal training ground to prepare me for this new role. Prior to joining CBL, I served as an associated analyst on the sell side covering REITs, including CBL and its peers. As a result, when I joined CBL, it was with a strong foundational understanding of the company and the industry that proved immensely helpful.

In 2004, when I started with CBL in investor relations, I was forced to become fully fluent in every area of our business to do my job well. At the same time, I benefited from an external perspective through relationships with our investors and business partners. As I advanced in the company, every new area of our business that I was able to work within—capital markets, reporting, transactions, communications, ESG, corporate governance, etc.—built critical knowledge that allows me to be more effective in this new role.

As COO, my job is to leverage CBL’s strengths to drive operational improvements and success. I am fortunate to be able to utilize my past experiences to effect positive change in the organization.

Is there an aspect of CBL that you would like to be better known by investors and others?

CBL is more than just a mall company. Most investors don’t realize that over 30% of our net operating income (NOI) comes from non-mall assets like open-air centers, lifestyle centers, and outlets. Additionally, an increasing percentage of our mall properties include additional non-retail assets on the mall campus such as hotels, medical, or self-storage. We are working to continue the evolution of our portfolio over time, focusing on stable or growing assets generating resilient free cash flow.

How do you see the retail sector evolving, and how is CBL positioned to respond?

Post-pandemic our industry has benefited from a relatively constructive operating environment. Despite record inflation and threats of a recession, traffic and sales quickly rebounded in 2021 and remain well above pre-pandemic levels. This has contributed to healthy and consistent tenant demand. Our primary focus from an operational perspective has been to harness this demand within the CBL portfolio, driving occupancy improvement and ultimately rate—something we’ve been successfully achieving.

At the same time, we are using these efforts to redefine and elevate the experience at our properties, introducing entertainment, wellness, education, and in-demand retail as well as other non-retail uses. We’ve seen similar strategies from our peers in the industry, designed to expand the customer base and increase traffic. The CBL portfolio is well-positioned because of our strong locations, which allow us to attract a wide variety of tenants and uses looking to locate in the best real estate in a market.