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ATLANTA-Founder and chairman of Cousins Properties Inc. Thomas Cousins will retire Dec. 7 and become chairman emeritus of the company. His decision comes after 48 years in the role.

“On Dec. 7, I will be 75 years old and will have been chairman of Cousins Properties for 48 wonderful years. Now it’s time for me to move into a new role,” Cousins says.

Current president and CEO Tom Bell will assume the role of chairman after Cousins’ retirement. “This is a bittersweet announcement for me,” Bell says. “Tom Cousins has spent the majority of this life building one of the finest real estate companies in the world and he remains one of the sharpest real estate minds in the country. I’m delighted he will remain with us as chairman emeritus and will still be available to offer advice and counsel to the Cousins team in that capacity.”

Cousins founded the company in 1958. Since then, Cousins has developed more than 35 million sf of commercial space and more than 50 residential neighborhoods. Cousins retired as CEO in January 2002 at which time Bell assumed the role. “I am still the largest shareholder in Cousins Properties and that won’t change, so my interest in the company and its progress will naturally be quite significant,” Cousins says.

For the third quarter, Cousins reported funds from operations of $13.9 million, or 26 cents per share. This compares to a reported $17 million, or 33 cents per share for the Q3 2005. For the nine months ending Sept. 30, the company reported $46.9 million, or 90 cents per share, compared with $50.9 million, or 98 cents per share, for the same period last year.

Earlier this week, the company reported a special cash dividend of $175 million, or $3.40 per share, payable Dec. 1. The dividend is the result of gains from the sale of several properties including the Bank of America Tower in Atlanta for $436 million, Frost Bank Tower in Austin, TX for $188 million, the Avenue of the Peninsula in Rolling Hills Estates, CA for $96.5 million, the Shops at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL for $13.5 million and seven ground leases adjacent to North Point Mall in Alpharetta for $14.3 million.

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