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Insider Purchase: Washington Prime Group's Unorthodox CEO Loads Up On Shares

Byron Clarke profile picture
Byron Clarke


  • WPG's management presented on Wednesday morning at the Citi 2018 Global Property CEO Conference.
  • CEO Lou Conforti was blunt, relatively unguarded, thoughtful, funny, and a huge cheerleader for his stock.
  • His leadership and communication style are incredibly unorthodox for a CEO - which might be the prescription needed for an industry in the middle of being disrupted.
  • Lou backed up his bullish comments with an open market purchase of $183K of WPG stock on February 28.
  • CFO Mark Yale hinted that WPG may have significant one-time gains in 2018, implying a potential O'Connor JV III.

I listened to Dan Carlin's six-part Hardcore History podcast focused on World War I in late 2017 (Blueprint for Armageddon I). If you have a spare 40 hours, I heartily recommend it.

In the early part of the war, virtually every country ended up firing most of their generals within the first year. Europe hadn't seen a large-scale war in decades, and military technology had evolved while leadership tactics had not. The early-war generals sacrificed hundreds of thousands of soldiers fighting with strategies that had been developed before the advent of the machine gun. Eventually, as generals were replaced with new officers who could adapt to modern weaponry, the war evolved into the long slow slog we remember as World War I.

The countries who were quickest to change were the countries who wasted the fewest resources in the early part of the war. Those that waited too long ran out of resources and inevitably saw their governments collapse to internal revolutions caused by starvation as much as by invading enemy armies.

I'm reminded of this history when I think about the shopping mall space today. Technology and times have changed, and the shopping mall industry is facing incredible disruption. It's not just Amazon.com (AMZN), but changing preferences, changing demographics, and changing wealth and income distribution among Americans. I can't say with confidence who will survive, but I am willing to bet it won't be those companies whose management teams don't adapt fast enough.

I initiated a sizable holding in Washington Prime Group (NYSE:WPG) in large part because I think highly of its management team. In my last article on WPG, I walked through the board battle that forced out former CEO Michael Glimcher and brought Lou Conforti's proactive strategy into the C-suite. The article also examines the dozens

This article was written by

Byron Clarke profile picture
I'm a value investor and favor deep-value investments and high ROE companies at reasonable prices.CV: I have more than ten years of experience working in Private Equity as an accountant and valuation specialist and began managing a portfolio of public securities in 2019. I'm an Illinois Registered CPA, and I have an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are long WPG, CBL. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

I am long WPG with a significant position. My dividend-adjusted cost basis is $6.61/share. I am also long CBL with an insignificant position.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

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