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CHICAGO-General Growth Properties is reportedly eliminating about 200 mall-marketing positions around the country, industry sources say. An e-mail circulating yesterday that appears to have been written to General Growth employees by company chairman and CEO John Bucksbaum says that “new method of marketing that is required to support a more efficient and effective balance of new growth opportunities.”

A General Growth spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that he is familiar with the e-mail and would not confirm or deny its validity. The company, with about 4,700 employees, does not comment on personnel matters, he says.

The e-mail stresses that the cuts are not a result of “changes in the economy” or based on performance. “This is simply the next step in the evolution of a more effective organization,” it says.

Changes in how mall owners market their properties have been in the works for years, says Alberta Davidson, a San Diego-based consultant who spent 25 years in marketing with former mall owner Hahn Co. Many firms have considered taking marketing responsibilities away from individual mall employees and consolidating them into corporate-office positions.

“As far as I know this is an unusual approach,” she says. “I don’t know of any other company that has done it to this large of a degree.” Additionally, General Growth was honored last year with four MAXI Gold Awards by the International Council of Shopping Centers for marketing excellence at individual malls it either owns or manages.

General Growth is currently facing tough financial times. Its stock, which closed yesterday at $33.60, is well below its 52-week high of $67.43. The company has about $5.6 billion in debt maturing this year and next that has yet to be refinanced in a troubled credit market, though executives say that they are optimistic potential financing sources. Management also expects to take Q4 write downs on some of its residential land holdings.

General Growth operates about 200 malls across the country and has holdings in Brazil and Turkey. The company is scheduled this week to open the Shoppes at the Palazzo, a 440,000-sf luxury-retail project in the Palazzo resort, adjacent to the Venetian in Las Vegas.

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