By Maria Saporta
The Pulte family wanted to send Atlanta a message Tuesday morning.
The company that Bill Pulte Sr. founded in 1950 is not moving its headquarters out of Atlanta. That’s what Bill Pulte III said in a phone interview Tuesday morning.
The younger Pulte even said he will be spending a lot more time in Atlanta seeking to fill the void left by the future departure of Richard Dugas, the CEO of PulteGroup.
Dugas and the the board of PulteGroup announced Monday morning that he intended to retire at the company’s annual meeting in May 2017 partly because of a division with the founding family. Bill Pulte Sr. immediately followed up with a letter to the board urging for an earlier departure of Dugas.
Pulte Sr., the largest shareholder in the company with 8 percent of the stock, specifically mentioned how much it cost the company to move the headquarters from suburban Detroit to Atlanta.
The younger Pulte wanted to clarify the family’s position on Atlanta. According to Pulte III, the family’s ownership position is worth about $527 million.
“We have been in the Atlanta community since the early 1970s,” Pulte III said. “My grandfather loves Atlanta, and we love Atlanta. We are in Atlanta to stay as the headquarters. In fact, I’m going to be spending more time in Atlanta.”
Pulte III, CEO of Pulte Capital – a private equity firm, is also chairman of a family-owned nonprofit called the Blight Authority. He said the family intends to establish the Blight Authority of Atlanta.
“It would be a blight removal effort that our family would fund for the knock down of vacant and dangerous buildings in Atlanta,” said Pulte III, who said he has already be reaching out to the Atlanta community – including Georgia Tech – to replicate what the Authority has been doing in Detroit.
“With Richard Dugas leaving the company, we want to re-emphasize our support for Atlanta,” Pulte III said. “We are more focused in working with community members and having them select which homes they want demolished.”
Pulte III repeated the statements that his grandfather had made about the family’s disappointment in Dugas’ leadership of the PulteGroup – namely the lack of appreciation in shareholder appreciation and the value of the stock price compared to Pulte’s peers – which he said have all been “relatively stagnant.”
Dugas, in a phone interview late Monday afternoon, defended his record. He also said that he fully intended to stay in Atlanta and remain involved with his civic activities.
Pulte III said the family is not sure how involved the members will be in the selection of a new CEO.
“My grandfather is just weighing his options on how influential we will be in the new CEO choice,” he said.
But he made it clear he will not be a candidate.
“We have no interest in taking over the company,” Pulte III said. “We are just disappointed shareholders.”
But the younger Pulte was most concerned about the Pulte family having a philanthropic tie to Atlanta.
“With (Richard Dugas) leaving PulteGroup, there will be a void that our family will be looking to fill,” he said. “We don’t believe the company necessarily be funding private philanthropy efforts. But I think you will see us (the family) a lot more in Atlanta.”
Asked whether the PulteGroup would continue building homes for police officers in the west side communities, Pulte III said: “We are fans of fulfilling any commitments that have been made.”
Pulte III said his grandfather “loved” Dugas as the CEO of the company until a few years ago when he started to be disappointed in the direction of the company. He said the family was “blindsided” by the announcement Monday morning.
“We want a positive outcome for for this,” Pulte III said. “We are going to make sure we are involved in Atlanta going forward. Atlanta put us on the map.”