Kenneth Heebner’s CGM Realty Fund is liquidating its positions in SL Green Realty Corp - Manhattan’s largest office landlord.
"You're seeing a retrenchment in the private-equity, hedge-fund and brokerage businesses, and there could be a lot of layoffs,'' Heebner, 66 told Bloomberg in a recent interview. "That could have a devastating impact on high-end residential real estate in New York. Appetite for office space will also decline."
More from the Heebner after after the jump.
When people want to be polite, they talk about Heebner’s “independent streak” and “against the grain” investment strategies. When they want to be less polite they use phrases like “too gutsy to be practical,” as Morningstar once put it.
Heebner’s ”gutsy” bets don’t always work out. Focus, his biggest fund, returned just 3.5 percent in 1998, vs. 28.6 percent for Standard & Poor's 500. Realty lost 21.2 percent that year. He isn’t afraid to short blue chips such as Wal-Mart and Dell – companies he considers overvalued – an investment style some consider “quirky.” But just because you can’t win ‘em all, doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes win big.
Coming out of the late ‘90’s with underperforming, unbalanced funds, he mobilized back to life through the last seven years starting in 2000 when he made a killing short-selling telecom and tech stocks. Then again in 2001 when he bet on homebuilder stocks which were extremely profitable over the subsequent three years. Currently, CGM mutual funds consists of four funds - Capital Development, Focus, Realty and Mutual- leaving Heebner with over $6.6 billion under his management.
Just before the housing bubble began to burst, he feared the expansion of what he deemed “funny-money mortgages.” He aggressively lightened his homebuilder shares in 2005, turned around and poured the proceeds into energy stocks just before oil prices began to ascend. In the age of $80 a barrel oil and subprime sludge spilling over into even the better neighborhoods and all but wiping out homesales, quirky looks pretty smart.
Now Heebner’s dumping SL Green Realty Corp. Since they are the largest office space landlord in Manhattan, chances are, you work in an SL Green office space.
“Heebner, who had two-thirds of the real-estate fund in homebuilder stocks at the beginning of 2005, sold his entire stake by the end of that year. Homebuilder shares peaked in July 2005 and have since tumbled an average of 67 percent,” Bloomberg reports.
Heebner, Top Fund Manager, Sells New York Real Estate [Bloomberg]