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JENKINTOWN, PA-The awaited shake-up at American Financial Realty Trust arrived this morning now that board member Harold Pote has replaced Nicholas Schorsch, effective immediately, as president and CEO. Pote is the former vice chairman of retail financial services for JP Morgan Chase. GlobeSt.com will update this story following an 8:30 am conference call.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Pote outlined a series of initiatives to “reposition the company.” At the same time, he said, “this management team will not close the door on any opportunity or action that will realize full and fair value to our shareholders,” in an apparent reference to a potential sale of the company.

Lewis Ranieri, chairman of the locally based financial REIT, said in the statement that Schorsch had resigned “by mutual agreement” with the board of trustees. Schorsch is a founder of AFR, and Ranieri credited him with helping the company “achieve first-mover advantage in our market niche.” There was no mention of Schorsch’s future plans. Ranieri said, “Realizing maximum shareholder value will require changes in the execution of the business plan.”

An acceleration of dispositions is among the list of AFR initiatives outlined in quotes by Pote in the statement. They came from a strategic review, which was announced by Ranieri at a shareholder meeting this June. The company will aggressively market non-core and selected other assets estimated to net up to $2 billion in proceeds.

Proceeds will fund future acquisitions, implement the previously approved $100-million stock buyback program, which Pote said could be expanded, and help reduce debt. The goal is to achieve an overall debt to asset leverage ratio of between 60% and 65%.

In a move to cut expenses, the statement said that AFR has closed and re-leased its London office and will do the same with its office in New York. The closings, along with other unidentified measures, are expected to result in a decrease of between $6 million and $8 million in expenses for the second half of this year compared with first-half.

The company also plans to reduce its third-quarter dividend to 19 cents in order to align dividend payout with quarterly earnings, exclusive of gains on the sale of assets. In addition, the statement promises “improved transparency in reporting.” The restructuring actions will cost the company between $23 million and $27 million. It will continue to work with advisors Greenhill & Co. LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

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