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ATLANTA-Locally based Cousins Properties Inc. has named Erskine Bowles as its lead director. Bowles succeeds Billy Payne, who served for the past six years in the role with the multi-sector commercial REIT.

Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton Administration from 1996 to 1998, has been president of the University of North Carolina System for the past three years. He has also been on Cousins’ board of directors since 2003.

“We have a great management team here and a terrific board,” Bowles told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “I don’t expect this to be heavy lifting.”

Cousins CEO Tom Bell says Payne, a partner in Gleacher Partners and chairman of Augusta National Golf Course, had felt he served enough time in the lead director capacity. Payne is also credited with attracting the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta.

Also during this week’s annual meeting, Bell told Cousins’ shareholders that the current real estate environment is the most difficult since the mid-1970s. Click here for a full report by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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