The board of trustees of Banyan Strategic Realty Trust has “suspended” its president/CEO, Leonard G. Levine, and named an interim president/CEO from its own membership, Larry Schafran. The move comes only a month after the board authorized Chicago-based Cohen Financial to take all of Banyan’s real estate holdings to the open market, either separately or as a package.

According to a statement released by Banyan, the board has now initiated an arbitration proceeding with the ultimate aim of sacking Levine for “just cause,” though it did not specify the causes. None of the parties involved were available for comment, but sources familiar with the matter told that the board of trustees and the REIT’s management were at odds over the disposition of the properties, with management strongly against hiring any outside party to market them. Also, a group headed by Levine had been negotiating to buy the properties, but was unable to conclude a deal with the board.

Banyan owns primarily office and flexspace in Midwestern and Sourthern states, with a current portfolio of 27 properties that total 3.5 million sf. Banyan seems to have suffered a strongly from the REIT malaise of the last few years. Share prices in Banyan since a high of over $7 in mid-1998 have stagnated between about $4.50 and $6. For the first quarter 2000 (the most recent figures available) Banyan reported net income of $1 million, or 7¢ per share, on revenues of $9.3 million, and FFO of $2.7 million, or 18¢ per share. This compared to net income of $1.2 million, or 9¢ per share, on revenues of $10.4 million and FFO of $2.8 million, or 20.5¢ per share, during the first quarter the previous year.

Total revenue for the first quarter 2000 was $9.3 million, which represents a decrease of 10.6% from the $10.4 million in revenue reported during the same period last year. This decrease is due to a reduction in the number of properties owned by Banyan, buton a “same-store” basis, when comparing the operational results of the same properties, total revenues also decreased, by roughly $0.1 million.

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