David Helfand, president and CEO of Equity Commonwealth (NYSE: EQC), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview at REITWorld 2014: NAREIT’s Annual Convention for All Things REIT at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
Equity Commonwealth is one of the largest commercial office REITs in the United States. In May 2014, a new board of trustees and management team were appointed to lead the company, formerly known as CommonWealth REIT, including Sam Zell as board chairman.
Helfand reflected on the impact of those changes. He explained that in addition to installing the new board of trustees and management team, Equity Commonwealth has hired almost 60 people.
At the same time the company has overhauled the entire corporate governance system, including its declaration of trust, bylaws and committee charters, he added. “We’re trying to put in place a best-in-class governance system for our shareholders,” he said.
Meanwhile, work now starts on assessing individual assets on an in-depth basis, according to Helfand. He said the company is working to determine which assets to keep and which to sell.
In terms of challenges facing the new company, Helfand stressed the importance of remaining patient.
“We know what we have to do. There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to be focused and go asset by asset and be thoughtful,” he said.
Helfand observed that in light of all the changes at Equity Commonwealth, the company will be better-positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities. The company’s assets are currently spread across 31 states. In the future, that spread “will likely be in a fraction of that,” he said. As a result, Equity Commonwealth will be a more focused company, according to Helfand. “And over the long term, that will demonstrate through our performance,” Helfand said.