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NEW YORK CITY-Lewis Ranieri, chairman of local REIT CapLease, is stepping down, and the company’s chief executive officer, Paul McDowell, is filling his position. The changes are effective immediately.

Ranieri says he is exiting his post for family reasons. He has served as chairman since 1995, a year after the firm was founded, and will continue to stay on the board in an advisory role.

McDowell is a founder of CapLease and has served as chief executive officer of the firm since 2001. He served as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary from 1994 until his promotion to chief executive.

CapLease is a REIT that primarily invests in single-tenant assets and currently controls 10.3 million sf of properties. A majority of its holdings are class A suburban office buildings, but the company also has investments warehouse, industrial, retail and US government-owned buildings.

As of late because of the credit crunch, CapLease is scaling back acquisitions. The firm is “waiting for market conditions to settle down before we resume active growth,” McDowell said last week here at the Wachovia Global Real Estate Securities Conference. “We’re not going to be on the sidelines for very long.”

During its most recent quarter, which ended Sept. 30, CapLease’s FFO shot up 81% from the same year-ago period, to $13.3 million. However, the company posted a $100,000 net loss, compared to earnings of $800,000 in Q3 2006.

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