Blair, 49, has been with the Calgary-based developer for more than a decade and boasts a strong development background. He takes the reins of the company from company founder Gobi Singh, who remains the largest shareholder with a 20% voting stake.
It has been an eventful year for Genesis. In April, it entered into an agreement with a buyer to sell all issued and outstanding common shares for $5.80 per common share. That deal fell through and it has since appointed investment firm Desjardins Securities to explore strategic alternatives for Genesis that could include a sale to another party.
Blair views his new CEO role as having two distinct parts: “One would be to continue working with Desjardins on the strategic alternatives process and the second prong to that is to maintain operations and be prepared that the Desjardins process does not actually come up with someone to essentially take us private or to purchase our assets and we continue operating as a land development corporation.”
Along with the announcement of Blair’s appointment to CEO, Genesis also said an assessment of recently completed and pending asset sales “partially substantiate” the appraised values in the Cushman Wakefield report used to estimate Net Asset Value (“NAV”) of about $8 per share at Dec. 31, 2010.
Genesis shares, which trade infrequently in part because a large percentage of the shares are held by big investors, trade at a large discount to NAV and have traded in the $3 per share range lately.
“A huge discount to NAV,” said Blair. “The interesting thing though is if you look at someone like Melcorp (Property), actually we did a chart comparison on stock price with them a little while ago. We sort of mirrored or ran lockstep with Melcorp.”
Former CEO Gobi Singh, who is not mentioned in the Oct. 13 announcement, no longer has a formal executive role with Genesis. “We are looking at retaining Mr. Singh in an advisory capacity and apart from that he would be a major shareholder with respect to sort of the board operations and functions,” said Blair. “They obviously want to hear what the major shareholder has to say.”
Currently Genesis has a number of development projects ongoing, which is a key reason Blair was selected as interim CEO. “I’m a known entity in the industry and within the organization,” he said. “I have been doing land development for over 20 years and with Genesis for 10 (years) so I’m very familiar with their operations. The lands that we do have zoned, it was pretty much my job to get them brought from raw land into their zoned state and I have good working relationships with all of our contractors.”
Blair said it is “likely” that the Genesis board of directors will carry out a formal CEO search, presumably after the strategic alternatives process is carried out by yearend. “I would be surprised if they didn’t do a larger executive search and I will throw my hat in the ring for that.”
Blair, a member of The Canadian Institute of Planners (MCIP), previously worked with the city of Calgary Transportation Planning Department and with the city of Airdrie (just north of Calgary) in the areas of land use, subdivision and parks planning.
Genesis has approximately 4,200 acres of residential, light industrial, retail and mixed use land in Calgary and the surrounding area. In nearby Airdrie, it owns about 800 acres of land. It also holds 122 acres of light industrial land on the western boundary of Edmonton and land holdings for development in British Columbia.