Charlotte developer gears up for more growth with new Japanese ownership

Crescent Communities' Novel NoDa apartments sit next to the light rail line. The developer has been acquired by Japan-based Sumitomo Forestry.
Crescent Communities' Novel NoDa apartments sit next to the light rail line. The developer has been acquired by Japan-based Sumitomo Forestry.

Japan-based Sumitomo Forestry has completed its acquisition of Crescent Communities, the companies said Monday, marking the transition of one of Charlotte's biggest developers from local to foreign control.

The sale gives Sumitomo direct access to the Southeast's booming apartment, office and hotel markets, along with a development pipeline that includes plans for thousands of new apartments and single-family lots. For Crescent's former private equity owners, the sale allows them to retire debt and realize a return on their investment, while Crescent gets a deep-pocketed new parent company to fund its future developments.

"We are pleased to make our partnership with Sumitomo Forestry America official and begin this new chapter in our history with a much stronger capital structure that gives us the flexibility to invest in and expand," said Crescent CEO Todd Mansfield, in a statement. "With renewed financial strength and the power of ideas, we look forward to exploring over time additional dimensions that are complementary to our existing businesses."

Crescent will retain its name and Charlotte headquarters. The company's Fielding Homes division, which the company launched in 2016, will be folded into Dan Ryan Builders, a Maryland-based homebuilder also owned by Sumitomo.

The companies didn't disclose the total price paid for Crescent, but according to an investor disclosure from Sumitomo, the company planned to spend $370 million on the Crescent acquisition. Mansfield said Sumitomo is also paying off Crescent's $380 million worth of outstanding corporate debt, as well as assuming all of the company's unspecified outstanding debts on their development projects.

"It was a very healthy premium to our book value," Mansfield said in April, when the companies first announced the deal. Crescent has more than $1.1 billion worth of assets under management and a development portfolio worth nearly $2 billion across the Southeast. Sumitomo is also buying Crescent's slate of future projects in development, totaling 5,500 apartments, 2,200 houses, and 2.5 million square feet of office and industrial space.

An 18,000-square-foot sculpture, titled "Wanderwall," by Marc Fornes is under construction on two sides of the Novel Stonewall Station in Charlotte on Monday, May 14, 2018. Fornes is a Brooklyn-based artist who is collaborating with Crescent Communities. John D. Simmons

Crescent was largely owned by private equity firms including MatlinPatterson and Anchorage Capital Group, but the company traced its roots back to 1963, when it was founded as Crescent Resources to manage Duke Energy's substantial land holdings, largely as a timber company. Crescent branched into development and spun off as an independent entity in 2006.

The company was long known for its luxury waterfront communities such as The Sanctuary on Lake Wylie and The Point in Mooresville. In 2009, Crescent filed for bankruptcy during the real estate crisis and recession. When Crescent emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, it re-branded itself as Crescent Communities, and focused more on apartments and mixed-use buildings.

Now, the company is building high-end apartments across Charlotte at places like the 36th Street light rail station in NoDa, as well as a new office tower uptown anchored by Ally Financial, near hotels and a Whole Foods.

"We are confident in this partnership, Crescent’s integrated real estate platform and the opportunity to deliver on our U.S. growth strategy with investment in the high-growth markets where Crescent is currently active," said Atsushi Iwasaki, president of Sumitomo Forestry America, in a statement. The company owns over 118,500 acres of forestland in Japan, along with five homebuilding companies in the U.S.

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