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COLUMBIA, MD-Shareholders of the Rouse Co. approve the development company’s merger with Chicago’s shopping center owner and developer General Growth Properties in a $7.2 billion deal. News of the sale’s approval came during Rouse’s live online broadcast of a shareholders meeting. The vote for the sale was not unanimous, but it was overwhelming with 75.5 million of the 104 million eligible voting shares giving the transaction the thumbs up. In addition to doling out the billions in cash for the company, General Growth will also assume $5.4 billion in existing debt.

Established in 1939 as a private company, and later made a public entity in 1956, Rouse is a REIT with holdings in the retail, office, R&D and industrial markets. The company has made its mark with the development of such planned communities as Columbia, MD, and the creation of “festival marketplace” retail and entertainment sites, designed to revive older neighborhoods.

The road to the decision was riddled with obstacles almost immediately following the August announcement of the planned transaction. A group of shareholders, heirs of the famously eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, tried to block the sale with a lawsuit that proved unsuccessful. And a single shareholder protested the proposed sale in a courtroom plea to delay the vote; that was another failed attempt. The sale, which will hold the distinction of the largest amount ever shelled out for a REIT, could close by week’s end.

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