REIT Led by Zell to Change Name to Equity Commonwealth

CommonWealth REIT, whose management was ousted earlier this year, will change its name to Equity Commonwealth as new Chairman Sam Zell deepens his imprint on the office landlord.

The real estate investment trust also will change its ticker symbol to EQC from CWH. The changes are effective Aug. 1, the Chicago-based company said today in a statement.

Zell, 72, was named CommonWealth’s chairman in May, completing a 15-month effort by investors Corvex Management LP and Related Cos. to overthrow management and install new trustees. The billionaire also is chairman of Equity Residential, the largest publicly traded apartment landlord, and Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., an owner of manufactured-home communities. He sold another of his companies, Equity Office Properties Trust, to Blackstone Group LP in 2007.

“This name change reflects a new chapter for the company,” Zell said in the statement. “In keeping with the other ‘Equity’ companies, Equity Commonwealth will operate with an entrepreneurial culture, where the interests of all stakeholders are aligned, focusing on long-term value creation for Equity Commonwealth’s shareholders.”

In March, CommonWealth shareholders ousted the company’s leadership, which included Barry Portnoy and his son Adam. Corvex and Related, which together at the time held 8.8 percent of the REIT’s stock, claimed that the Portnoys’ ownership of a management company that ran the firm resulted in conflicts of interest and underperformance.

Earlier this month, Zell and CommonWealth’s new chief executive officer, David Helfand, hired Adam Markman, formerly a managing director at REIT research firm Green Street Advisors Inc., as chief financial officer, and sold the landlord’s interest in Select Income REIT for about $705 million. The Portnoys serve on Select Income’s board.

The name change was announced after the close of regular U.S. trading. CommonWealth was unchanged at $26.57 today. Its shares have gained 14 percent this year, in line with the Bloomberg REIT Office Property Index.

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