William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management LP told General Growth, the second-biggest U.S. shopping-mall owner, that it should consider a sale of the company in a letter filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Pershing Square, General Growth's No. 2 shareholder, has discussed a takeover of the Chicago-based company with Simon Property Group Inc. General Growth's largest shareholder, Brookfield Asset Management Inc., didn't support the transaction and said it was interested in buying the company itself, according to the letter.
"Our goals are to ensure that a level playing field exists so that Simon, Brookfield and potentially other parties can compete to acquire the company," Ackman said in the letter. Brookfield should be stopped from "unfairly acquiring control" of General Growth without paying a "premium in a competitively negotiated transaction," he wrote.
General Growth exited bankruptcy protection in November 2010 following a takeover battle between Indianapolis-based Simon Property, its larger rival, and an investor group that included Brookfield and Pershing Square. General Growth filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after weighing itself down with $27 billion in debt that it was unable to refinance because of the financial crisis and collapse of the commercial mortgage-backed securities market. David Keating, a spokesman for General Growth, declined to comment on Thursday.
General Growth shares climbed $1.80 to close at $20.32, the stock's biggest gain in more than a year and highest price in four years.
Alderwood's owner isn't alone in suffering financial woes during the recession. Steadfast Commercial Properties, the primary owner of Everett Mall, defaulted on $98 million loan earlier this year. Steadfast's lender published a foreclosure notice on June 18 in the Herald. In mid-July, a Steadfast spokeswoman said the California-based company and its lender were in talks to avoid foreclosure.
Over the last month, however, representatives of Steadfast and Everett Mall have refused repeated requests for comment.