Office Depot pledges $100 million stock buyback

Office Depot center in Royal Palm Beach
Office Depot center in Royal Palm Beach

Office Depot shareholders await the struggling retailer’s master plan to survive a wrenching downturn. In the meantime, the company says it’ll buy back shares worth as much as $100 million.

“Today’s announcement reflects our commitment to shareholder return,” Office Depot Chief Executive Roland Smith said in a statement.

Shares in the Boca Raton-based retailer are off 37 percent this year after its merger with Staples died. Office Depot says it’s working on a smaller, brighter “store of the future.”

Palm Beach County apartments fetch big money

real-estate

Palm Beach County apartment complexes continue to fetch top dollar. The latest example: The Arbor Oaks Apartments west of Boca Raton sold for $77 million, nearly double their 2009 price of $39.2 million, according to a deed made public Friday.

The complex includes 360 units. The buyer is an investor in Los Angeles, the seller an investor in Houston.

In an even richer deal the previous week, the Barcelona apartments in Jupiter sold for $87.6 million. Mann Realty Associates of New York bought the 352-unit complex.

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“Excessive compensation” at Seacoast? Answer isn’t clear

Dennis Hudson in 2002.
Dennis Hudson in 2002.

New York private equity firm CapGen Financial isn’t pleased with the direction of Stuart-based Seacoast Banking Corp. (Nasdaq: SBCF). One of its gripes: “excessive compensation paid to Board members.”

CapGen’s John Sullivan raised the complaint in a letter to directors this month. He didn’t specify which pay package he found objectionable.

A quick survey of seven Florida-based financial companies — Seacoast, BankUnited, Stonegate Bank, FCB Financial, CenterState Banks, Ocwen Financial and BBX Capital — shows Seacoast’s long-time chairman, chief executive and president was the lowest-paid top exec in the group. Dennis Hudson III collected $680,286 in 2015.

Seacoast did have the highest-paid non-employee director among the seven companies. Roger Goldman received $332,500, including a $20,000 housing allowance.

More details:

Takeover talk swirls around Seacoast Bank and its “anemic” results

Courtesy Seacoast Banking Corp.
Courtesy Seacoast Banking Corp.

Another decade, another merger rumor for Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida. The Stuart-based bank — which has steadfastly stayed independent for 83 years — finds itself once again identified as a takeover target.

This time, though, the stakes might be higher: An owner of 20 percent of the company has publicly lambasted the bank for “anemic” profits and “excessive compensation.” In a letter to Seacoast directors this month, John Sullivan of CapGen Capital Group strongly suggested a sale.

“We also believe that Seacoast’s geographic footprint and customer base make it an attractive acquisition target for larger banks, and that there would be strong interest in the company, and an opportunity to realize a substantial premium, were Seacoast to explore strategic alternatives,” Sullivan wrote. “Unless Seacoast is able to achieve meaningful improvement in its operational execution and achieve similar operating metrics to well-run industry peers, we believe it will become imperative for the company to explore all alternatives to unlock value for shareholders.”

In a response to CapGen, Seacoast Chairman and President Dennis Hudson III called the investor’s suggestion “puzzling.”

“In the time since CapGen first invested in Seacoast, Seacoast has delivered exceptional returns for you and all other shareholders, and the board strongly believes that we will be able to continue to achieve robust earnings growth and shareholder value creation on a present value basis,” Hudson wrote.

After a shareholder vote this week, Hudson is still in charge, if barely. He was supported by just 52.5 percent of shareholders.

I confess: I’m a cheapskate, and I helped kill Sports Authority

tsa-couponSports Authority perished by many cuts. Among the culprits were fierce competition, the rise of Amazon and the chain’s own mediocre merchandising and sucky service.

I’ll cop to my own culpability in the once-dominant retailer’s demise: In the past decade, I never crossed the threshold of a Sports Authority or Dick’s without clutching a fistful of the coupons that the competitors rained down on consumers like confetti.

Once inside, I inevitably bought an already-discounted item (typically a pair of cleats for my kid), cashed in the coupon, then collected rewards points to pile on my next transaction.

And I rarely purchased an item priced at more than $50. On this count, I blame Sports Authority and its unfailingly low-brow inventory. A survey of my household stock reveals many high-quality, high-margin items, none purchased at Sports Authority: baseball bats, bikes, free-dive masks, gymnastics leotards, ice skates, running shoes, skateboards, sunglasses, surfboards, wetsuits.

Slick sticks, sweet rides and stellar service were the purview of specialty retailers, not the chain once headquartered in South Florida. On no occasion did I depart a Sports Authority thinking, I’ve gotta save up to get me one of those! 

So long, Sports Authority. You showered us with discounts, but, with your unsexy SKUs, you never spoiled us like we wanted to be spoiled.

Another round in the Jeff Greene, Tampa Bay Times feud

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Jeff Greene

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has a new beef with the Tampa Bay Times, which settled with him earlier this year on a libel case dating back to 2010.

Greene is irate at the wording of news of the settlement by the newspaper.

In a story published on May 12,  Tampa Bay Times editor Neil Brown said the settlement “represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses. On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting.”

“They’re lying,” Greene said in an interview May 18.

The Times’ Brown did not return a phone call for comment.

Greene said the settlement was “very substantial” and “many multiples of their legal fees.”

“It’s a huge settlement, a significant amount of money,” Greene said. “It was a very big wire into my account.”

Greene said both sides had agreed to keep confidential the settlement amount.  However, now that the paper is claiming the amount totaled only legal fees, Greene said he’s speaking out to dispel the paper’s attempt to downplay the figure.

The battle between the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and the billionaire real estate investor goes back to Greene’s unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Greene spent $24 million on a four-month campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination but lost to Kendrick Meek. Marco Rubio won the Senate seat in the November general election.

After the election, Greene returned to the real estate business, and bought up millions of dollars’ worth of real estate in West Palm Beach.

He also filed a libel suit against the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald, saying the papers defamed him with articles describing his role in a California condo complex and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Greene blames the stories for derailing his campaign.

A judge dismissed the suit, but an appeals court ruled that the dismissal was premature and that the case should resume. A trial was set for this spring, but Greene settled confidentially with both newspapers in recent weeks.

But last week, he and his attorney, L. Lin Wood, expressed outrage at the wording of Brown’s description of the money settlement.

Greene also is annoyed that the paper’s statement said it wasn’t retracting or correcting its coverage.

Following word that Greene was peeved, the Tampa Bay Times updated its story about the settlement.

On May 19, an online article included the addition of statements by Wood. He said that as part of the settlement, editor’s notes had been added to two prior articles about Greene.

An editor’s note added to the end of the story about the condo reads that the article “should not be read inaccurately to accuse Mr. Greene of mortgage fraud.”

And an editor’s note at the end of a story about Greene’s yacht said that the article “should not be read inaccurately to accuse Mr. Greene of using drugs on his yacht.”

Both editor’s notes said, “To the extent there is ambiguity on this point, the Times regrets any confusion.”

But Greene still is mad.

“Based on Neil Brown’s recent conduct, I have to wonder if even after being forced to correct their libelous stories and write an enormous check,  the reporters at the Times will report responsibly and honestly,” Greene wrote in an email May 25.

 

 

 

 

Office building on Palm Beach’s Banker’s Row fetches nearly $700 a foot

250 RPW

The office building at 250 Royal Palm Way just sold for $697 a foot, a rich valuation for Palm Beach County space.

To compare: The office buildings at 340 and 350 Royal Palm Way sold in 2013 for $461 a square foot. A mile west, CityPlace Tower in 2014 fetched $490 per square foot.

The 24,034-square-foot building at 250 Royal Palm Way just sold for $16.75 million, according to a deed made public Thursday. The seller was Ivy Realty of Montvale, New Jersey; the buyer is Epic LLC of New York.

Ivy Realty paid $7 million for the 38-year-old building and spent $2 million on renovations. In a 2013 interview, Rusty Warren, co-chief executive of Ivy Realty, said the building reminded him of a bomb shelter.

“This was perhaps the nicest location — and the worst building,” Warren said. “In real estate, you want to buy the worst house on the nicest street, and I think that applies here.”

Banker’s Row, as Royal Palm Way is known, boasts some of the priciest office space in Florida.

Florida ranks No. 2 in home price appreciation

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Florida’s 11.2 percent gain in home values over the past year trailed only Washington’s 11.8 percent, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s first-quarter price index.

See the state-by-state breakdown here:

 

Sports Authority, Office Depot closing hundreds of stores — but see who’s picking up the slack

This Family Dollar opened in Boynton Beach in 2015. (Photo by Alexandra Seltzer/The Palm Beach Post)
This Family Dollar opened in Boynton Beach in 2015. (Photo by Alexandra Seltzer/The Palm Beach Post)

Here’s a disconnect: Retailers such as Sports Authority and Office Depot are closing hundreds of stores, yet Palm Beach County’s retail vacancy rate remains a modest 6 percent.

Why the gap? Here’s an idea: For every merchandiser that’s tanking, another is expanding. Dollar stores opened hundreds of new locations last year. Off-price retailers such as T.J. Maxx and Ross are expanding. So are Publix, Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s.

Here’s a rundown of 16 retailers with a strong presence in Palm Beach County. Six (including Staples and Best Buy) are contracting, two (Kohl’s and Home Depot) are holding steady, and eight (including Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Dick’s Sporting Goods) are in expansion mode.

Unlike their Greatest Generation grandparents, Millennials love living with their parents

LIFE_HOME-MULTIGENERATIONAL

Members of the Greatest Generation couldn’t wait to get the hell out of their parents’ house. Millennials, on the other hand, are perfectly happy to mooch off Mom and Dad’s cable, Wi-Fi and Cheetos.

In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household, the Pew Research Center reports.

In 2014, 32.1 percent of young adults lived with their parents, compared to 31.6 percent living with a spouse or partner. In 1960, just 20 percent of young adults lived with their parents, and 62 percent were living with spouses.

“This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35,” Pew reports.