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ATLANTA-Former Cousins Properties CEO and chair Tom Bell has joined Goddard Investment Group LLC as vice chairman and partner, effective Jan. 1. Bell retired from Cousins Properties in July after an eight-year stint with the development-oriented REIT.

“When I retired, I hadn’t really planned on getting back into the real estate world,” Bell tells GlobeSt.com. “When Bob (Goddard) approached me about the opportunity on the investment side, in what should be a good market for people with significant financial capability, I said I’d get back into the game.”

Bell acknowledges the idea of working on the investment side, as opposed to the development side, intrigued him. Furthermore, thanks to his connections with the Federal Reserve, he knows that 2010 is likely to be the year during which banks are likely going to offload commercial real estate assets they had taken in foreclosure. “There is going to be $128 billion of lending coming due in 2010, 2011 an 2012,” he adds. “If you have capital and access to funding, it can create some really good buying opportunities for experienced investors for experienced investors with the capability to get an asset leased up and stabilized.”

What this means for Goddard Investment Group specifically is an eye out for office investments and possibly office-driven mixed-use projects. The preferred assets are those that have some upside on the leasing end and likely have ended up in a lender’s coffers. Bell says Goddard Investment Group has both the operating capacity to turn assets around, as well as the financing capability to acquire them. In terms of the “where” of the potential investments, “if the sun is shining and the population is growing, then we’re there,” says Bell, explaining Goddard Investment Group’s preference for sunbelt assets.

In addition to working with Goddard Investment Group, Bell will keep up his other commitments including that of chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, a role he’ll assume in May 2010. Bell also currently serves as chairman of SecurAmerica, LLC, an Atlanta-based commercial security company.

Prior to joining Cousins in 2001, Bell spent 10 years at Young & Rubicam Inc. (NYSE:YNR), retiring as chairman and CEO when it merged with WPP Group. Before becoming chairman of Young & Rubicam Inc., he served as chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Advertising and as CEO of Burson-Marsteller and Young & Rubicam’s Diversified Communications Group.

Bell was named vice chairman of the Cousins Properties (NYSE:CUZ) board of directors and chairman of the executive committee in 2001 and was subsequently elected president and CEO by the board of directors in 2002. Bell assumed the role of chairman of the board upon the retirement of chairman and founder Tom Cousins in 2006. He served with Cousins until 2009.

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