Update 12:16 PM
Big news. John Bucksbaum is stepping down as CEO. He's staying on as chairman. Long-time president Robert Michaels is also relinquishing that title, though he will remain as COO. This comes a couple weeks after another long-time executive, CFO Bernie Freibaum, was forced to step down.
General Growth Properties, Inc. today announced that two independent directors of the company will assume senior management positions effective immediately. Adam Metz will serve as interim Chief Executive Officer, and Thomas H. Nolan Jr. will serve as interim President, positions previously held by John Bucksbaum and Robert A. Michaels, respectively. Mr. Bucksbaum will continue to serve as Chairman and Mr. Michaels will continue to serve as Chief Operating Officer and a senior officer of the company. In order to maintain a majority of independent directors, Mr. Michaels has also given up his Board seat.
Update: Wow. This just gets worse. The firm has uncovered some loans to executives that breached company policy. Also, it looks like General Growth is selling some of its Las Vegas assets.
The company said it had discovered that an affiliate of a Bucksbaum family trust had extended loans to Michaels and to former Chief Financial Officer Bernard Freibaum.
The Michaels loan has been repaid, while $80 million remains outstanding on a loan to Freibaum, who was fired earlier this month.
Failure to disclose the loans violated internal company policy, but no company assets were involved and no regulatory rules were violated, General Growth said.
Freibaum could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Chicago-based company, which earlier this month suspended its dividend, also said that its board was evaluating all financial and strategic alternatives amid "unprecedented challenges in this economic environment."
It plans to sell its portfolio of Las Vegas retail properties that include the Fashion Show Mall and The Palazzo, as is working with lenders to extend a Nov. 28 maturity date on debt tied to those properties. The company said it remained current on its debt obligations.