Posts By : The Real Deal South FL Real Estate News

CREC, a specialist in reviving tired retail centers, buys a robust one in Tallahassee
Principals of CREC diversified from their usual turnaround strategy by acquiring a fully occupied strip shopping center in Tallahassee for $15.9 million.
The deal was an “opportunity to diversify our investment criteria and acquire highly stable property with strong in-place cash flow,” CREC chairman and co-founder Warren Weiser said in a press release. “We remain committed to chasing value-add deals.”

The CREC principals bought the 92,229-square-foot Killearn Shopping Center at 3479 Thomasville Road in Tallahassee for about $172 per square foot.

Hobby Lobby, CVS and Bonefish Grill are anchor tenants at the shopping center, located northeast of Florida State University amid golf courses, country clubs and gated communities.

In addition to Bonefish Grill, the Killearn Shopping Center has restaurants operated by Five Guys, Firehouse Subs, Hungry Howie’s and Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Weiser, Alan Esquenazi and Andrew Remick led the $15.9 million transaction on behalf of the CREC principals.

Carson Good and Tarik Bateh of brokerage firm JLL represented the seller, DDR and Madison International Realty. – Mike Seemuth

About CREC

CREC is the leading, independent, full-service commercial real estate company in Florida with offices in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. Since its founding in 1989, CREC has provided fully-integrated real estate services, including brokerage, leasing, management, tenant representation, receiverships, workouts, as well as debt and equity financing. The company continues to uphold its mission of being “Your Florida Partner” through its commitment to providing clients with unrivaled service and a streamlined approach. Through the years, CREC has built a portfolio of more than 13 million square feet across 100-plus properties throughout Florida. For more information, visit www.crec.com.

CREC principals get $10M for Orlando-area office building they acquired for $4.3M
The principals of CREC sold a renovated office building in the Orlando area for $10 million, more than double the price the company paid for the property five years ago.

The three-story office building had a 47 percent occupancy rate when CREC acquired it in 2013 for $4.3 million.

CREC then renovated the property and drove the occupancy rate to 97 percent. Merrill Lynch, Valley National Bank and Hylant Insurance are the biggest tenants.

The 71,160-square-foot office building, called Heathrow International, is located at 250 International Parkway in Lake Mary, within a 30-minute drive of Orlando.

The renovation included upgrades to the lobby, corridors and bathrooms. CREC chairman and co-founder Warren Weiser called the renovation and lease-up “a fully engaged plan to turn around an asset” in a prepared statement.

The building draws its name from its location on the fifth fairway of a golf course at Heathrow Country Club. – Mike Seemuth

About CREC

CREC is the leading, independent, full-service commercial real estate company in Florida with offices in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. Since its founding in 1989, CREC has provided fully-integrated real estate services, including brokerage, leasing, management, tenant representation, receiverships, workouts, as well as debt and equity financing. The company continues to uphold its mission of being “Your Florida Partner” through its commitment to providing clients with unrivaled service and a streamlined approach. Through the years, CREC has built a portfolio of more than 13 million square feet across 100-plus properties throughout Florida. For more information, visit www.crec.com.

Bridging the Gender Divide in Commercial Real Estate
Women in the field find the deck is largely stacked against them, even as some top firms have been celebrated for their inclusionary policies.

Barbara Liberatore Black’s rise to managing director of JLL’s South Florida office was not an easy one. Currently the only female executive in her office, Black was also one of the first women in commercial real estate in Miami.

She got her start doing tenant representation for Julien J. Studley Inc., the precursor to Savills Studley, in 1981. “I was the only female tenant adviser for years,” Black said. Before securing that gig, she’d tried to get her foot in the door elsewhere, to no avail. 

“If you were a man today, I would hire you,” an interviewer told her, reasoning that as a woman who was going to get married, she wouldn’t have the time for the job. Instead, he offered Black a secretarial position. She turned it down.

Times have clearly changed, but in the wake of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein — and the many similar charges against high-profile men that followed, including starchitect Richard Meier — several, if not all, industries are facing profound questions about company culture and fairness.

However, many women in South Florida’s commercial real estate industry are not seeing a major push to close the gender gap. They say the #MeToo movement hasn’t kicked off the kinds of productive conversations it was intended to inspire. Rather, many male colleagues are “now afraid to say hello” to women, Carol Brooks, co-founder of the brokerage Continental Real Estate Companies (CREC), said. “It’s coming more from a place of their own self-preservation. It’s interesting to see how men are reacting; it’s more fear than compassion or anything,” she said.

The Real Deal examined the male and female representation of agents working for South Florida’s top five commercial brokerages (determined by the dollar volume of sales and leases as reported by the South Florida Business Journal) by analyzing broker license data filed with the state as of Feb. 23. Marcus & Millichap had the lowest percentage of female agents in the tri-county region of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, with 18 percent.

Lori Schneider, senior managing director of investments at Marcus & Millichap, said she thinks the firm has fewer women than the others because the company focuses only on investment sales, which takes time and money “until you establish yourself.” Women typically have less of both than men, she said. Leasing, on the other hand, often provides agents with a crucial base salary.

CBRE had the highest percentage of women agents, with 39.8 percent, and JLL closely followed with the second highest representation of women, 38.6 percent, according to TRD’s analysis.

Both CBRE and JLL recently won industry awards for their gender inclusion. CBRE, where three of the firm’s board members are women, received the Diversity & Inclusion Award from the Mortgage Bankers Association in February. In March, JLL was named one of the National Association for Female Executives’ “Top Companies for Executive Women.”

CBRE and JLL’s numbers of female brokers in South Florida are better than national averages. The Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network Benchmark study conducted in 2015 — the most recent data set of its kind that’s available — showed that only 23 percent of leasing and sales brokers in the U.S. were women in 2015. But that number was up from 20 percent five years earlier. Between 2010 and 2015, women went from representing 32 percent of the total commercial real estate workforce to 36 percent nationwide. The subsector with the highest concentration of women was property management, with 51 percent of the asset, property and facilities management workforce female, up from 47 percent in 2010.

And while the CREW research found that women made 23.3 percent less than men in the field in 2015, all of the women contacted for this story had a different experience. Female brokers said that because most positions are commission-based, the wage gap isn’t much of an issue. “The good news about that is a woman who is driven can be equal or better [than a man], and she will get paid,” Black said. “I think this is one of the few careers where women get equal pay.”

The achievement gap

Although there’s been progress in overall male-to-female ratios, the gender gap is still quite vast when it comes to women in leadership positions. CREW’s 2015 study found that only 9 percent of the women who were surveyed held executive roles, compared to 17 percent of the men who participated in the study.

The industry is also facing an aspirational gap between men and women. Forty percent of men surveyed by CREW said they wanted C-suite positions compared to only 28 percent of women. And once men had between six and 10 years of experience, they rose through the ranks at a faster pace than women, the report found.

“Men are much more vocal than women. When you don’t speak up and you don’t ask for the job, you don’t get it,” said Sara Hernandez, president of CREW-Miami.

Women developers are also lacking in the industry because the field requires a track record and capital, said Avra Jain, a commercial developer in Miami’s MiMo, Little Haiti, Miami River and Overtown neighborhoods.

“When I first came down to Miami [17 years ago] and I walked into a meeting to buy a piece of property, the broker kept talking to the man next to me,” Jain said.

The perils of after-hour events

“‘Welcome to the company. I Googled you hoping to find some bikini shots online,’” Pauldine France, vice president of strategic investments at FIP Commercial, recalled a man saying on her first day at a new job. “I once had a COO I ran into at a party who was trying to get me drunk to take me home. His wife was at the same party,” she added.

Most women in the industry who were contacted for this story agreed that there’s been some progress in hiring more women, but the presence of some bad actors remains a big issue.

France got her start in 2003 as a brand ambassador for Tony Cho when he launched Metro 1 Properties. She was later a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, then worked for Shawmut Design and Construction in New York, Thor Equities in Miami and, more recently, spent a year working for RKF, also in Miami.

France is, as she describes herself, a “six-foot-tall black chick with green eyes.” She’s faced more than her share of unwanted attention, she told TRD. “I’m used to people looking at me. In commercial real estate, I am a unicorn of a unicorn,” she said. “I’ve had inappropriate, ‘let me take you home’ comments.”

The necessity of after-hours networking doesn’t help things. Going to nightclubs, strip clubs and bars is still a way to get deals done in Miami, sources said. There’s also still a lot of golfing.

“Half of these guys just want to party, and the business facilitates partying” said Mika Mattingly,
executive vice president of Colliers International South Florida.

Some women push themselves to head to the golf course or boozy networking events even when it’s uncomfortable. CBRE’s Carol Ellis-Cutler, first vice president of advisory and tenant services in Miami, attended a conference earlier this year where she was one of a handful of women out of a crowd of 800. She later attended the golfing event, where she was the only woman — alongside 32 men.

However, Ellis-Cutler and Arden Karson, senior managing director of CBRE South Florida, both said they also use their gender to their advantage. “Being the only woman at the table, they love that,” Karson said, referencing her male colleagues. She squeezed her way into a dinner during a CRE Finance Council event because she wanted to do business with the group.

“I was the only woman out of 20 people, and they all wanted to sit with me,” Karson said, noting that the extra attention she received was not inappropriate. The men, she said, just wanted to speak to a woman because it was “a refreshing change.”

Men can be more inclined to share information with women, some female brokers said. But that too can have its downside. There’s a fine line between being “approachable and nice” and being “firm,” France said. “You have to deliver this coolness while still keeping that meter stick in front of them,” she said. “Nine out of 10 times, ‘super cool’ can become ‘I can make comments about your new push-up bra.’”

Mentoring the next generation

When considering ways to resolve some of these murky issues, many women said that mentoring a new generation of female brokers is the most important work that needs to be done. And South Florida’s a good place for that: A number of women in leadership roles in commercial real estate own their own companies or work for women who do.

Brooks, of CREC, got her start working in the corporate real estate lending department at Southeast Bank and moved on to the Continental Companies, where she was director of the commercial office leasing department. In the late ‘80s, she considered working at other brokerages and said, “Screw that, I’ll start my own company.”
At that company, a boutique commercial firm she co-founded with Warren Weiser, 51 percent of its 120 employees are female. Two of its six partners are women, and half of its department heads are women. More than 60 percent of CREC’s property managers are women, and 26 percent of the company’s brokers are women. “There are just such high barriers to entry otherwise, so we’ve created our own system,” Brooks said.
Her approach to nurturing female talent development has paid off in the eyes of Sabrina Stimming. Brooks mentored Stimming, who started as an executive assistant and was promoted to marketing assistant, then marketing director. An opening appeared in retail leasing, and now Stimming is director of retail leasing and a partner at CREC. She believes that had she started her career at a traditional brokerage like a CBRE, “it’s probably not likely I would be a head of a department there.”
“If you look around at other firms in our industry, the only women you see in any sort of leadership positions are women who form their own companies,” Stimming added.

Without a mentor, Collier’s Mattingly developed her own strategy for success that many women in the industry adopt: Be the best at the job. She’d pick a neighborhood or area and become an expert on it. “I picked Sunset Island II, which I liked at the time, and I farmed the fuck out of it,” she said. 

From Metro 1, where Mattingly started in 2006 as a commercial associate, she went to Sterling Equity Commercial, where she’d “transact all day off-market, but no one would trust me with big listings.” She eventually represented Moishe Mana in nearly all of his acquisitions in downtown Miami’s Flagler District, which to date has totaled $267 million on 1 million square feet of building space and eight acres of land.

In 2016, Mattingly joined Colliers and is building her team out of an office in downtown Miami. Although it’s not her own company, it’s clear that she’s running her own operation out of the ground-floor retail space on Flagler Street. She said she’s teaching her team to become neighborhood experts, as she did, by learning every property and zoning before they start selling.

Tere Blanca, founder, chairman and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, also wants to nurture female talent. She left Cushman & Wakefield to start her own firm in 2008 and is responsible for mentoring everyone in the 22-person office, including a few female agents. In her view, the lack of women in the field may stem from them just not knowing about it. “I don’t think a lot of young women understand the opportunities that exist in the industry,” she said.

Ellis-Cutler and some of her colleagues at CREW-Miami introduced themselves to a group of high school girls by telling them, “We don’t sell single-family homes. We can sell the entire multifamily building.”

CBRE created its Women’s Network in 2000; it now has 3,500 members nationwide and hosts quarterly events. The gender gap at CBRE and other major commercial brokerage persists, but Karson acknowledged that the firm’s numbers are going up.

Forging ahead

While women in commercial real estate today see some struggles and disparities, JLL’s Black said the industry has grown to include more women since she got her start in the early ‘80s. “The one thing I’ve noticed is that women feel more empowered to say to their peers or their managers, ‘Hey, that was an off-color joke’ or ‘I didn’t really like the way you said that about me.’ Women are using their voice now to explain that it’s not right,” she said.

However, Black sees two areas where female representation is lacking: tenant advisory and capital markets, both of which are especially profitable sectors of the business. “That’s predominantly still occupied by men, but in time that will change,” she said.

Jain is also optimistic about closing the gender gap in development.

“We’re starting to see more women take on those roles within their families and more women who want to be developers,” Jain said.

AEW sells West Palm office tower for $42M to Dallas investment manager and CREC

AEW sells West Palm office tower for $42M to Dallas investment manager and CREC

One Clearlake Centre, with 18 stories, is 47 percent leased

AEW Capital Management just sold a Class A office tower in West Palm Beach to a joint venture between a Dallas-based private equity real estate manager and CREC for $42.3 million, The Real Deal has learned.

Velocis and CREC acquired the 218,500-square-foot, One Clearlake Centre “at a significant discount to replacement cost,” Mike Lewis, principal of the Texas firm, said in a press release. The buyers financed the sale with a floating rate, five-year $34.84 million mortgage from Mesa West Capital, a debt fund with offices in Los Angeles and New York.

The 18-story building, at 250 South Australian Avenue, is only 47 percent leased. The property includes a five-story, 662-space parking garage. It traded for nearly $195 per square foot.

“The vacancy is really attributable not to market factors, but rather the prior ownership’s investment strategy … The prior landlord had a philosophy to not break up spaces,” Carol Brooks, president and co-founder of CREC, told TRD. “There are 7 full floors that have not been multi-tenanted. It creates a really extraordinary opportunity for us. There’s not a lot of product out there with these outsized opportunistic returns.”

The joint venture plans to start a multimillion-dollar capital improvement program to update the building, which was built in 1986. The new owners will also create a modern tenant lounge and conference center and spec office suites. CREC will handle leasing and management.

Current rents are in the low $30s per square foot, gross, said Andrew Remick, CREC vice president of acquisitions. The firm aims to push rents up about $5 per square foot. Class A trophy buildings that are more than 95 percent leased sign deals between $60 per square foot and $70 per square foot, he said.

Current tenants include Rosenbaum Mollengarden PLLC, BB&T, Keyes, Prudential, Robert Half International and Northwestern Mutual.

A majority of the leasing in downtown West Palm is by smaller tenants, CBRE’s José Lobón said.

Lobón and Chris Lee represented the seller, and Amy Julian arranged the financing. CBRE began marketing the property without an asking price a little more than three months ago. Lobón said the value-add opportunity brought in “a plethora of offers.”

Property records show AEW affiliate One Clearlake Centre LLC paid $38.6 million for the building in 2005. It’s fronts the Clear Lake on the west side of the city’s central business district. The glass office tower is also near All Aboard Florida’s Brightline station and the Tri-Rail station.

Velocis, created in 2011, owns 24 properties in Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Virginia and North Carolina.

AEW manages investments primarily on behalf of institutional and private investors with about $64 billion worth of assets around the world, including properties in South Florida, according to its website.

CREC, Lubert Adler sell Coral Springs shopping center for $48M to Zurich Insurance asset manager

CREC, Lubert Adler sell Coral Springs shopping center for $48M to Zurich Insurance asset manager

Sellers raised occupancy of Royal University Plaza from 45% to 98%

By Katherine Kallergis

June 2, 2017

Royal University Plaza, Warren Weiser, Andrew Remick and Alan Esquenazi

A joint venture between CREC and Lubert Adler Real Estate Funds just sold a shopping center in Coral Springs for $48 million, nearly double what the venture paid in 2015.

Property records show CPAC Royal University sold the Royal University Plaza at 2556 North University Drive to New York-based Zurich Alternative Asset Management, a subsidiary of Zurich Insurance Group.

The CREC-Lubert Adler joint venture bought the 10-acre property in February 2015 for $26 million with plans to renovate and lease the then 100,000-square-foot shopping center. It was 45 percent leased when it last sold, and is now 98 percent leased.

CREC and Lubert Adler also expanded Royal University Plaza for Orchard Supply, which has about 37,000 square feet, and brought in Total Wine & More to lease about 25,000 square feet.

The 115,000-square-foot center just sold for more than $415 per square foot. Other tenants include Pet Supermarket, Jimmy John’s and Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.

Asking rents are in the low $30s per square foot. “We pushed rents, but we really did was push occupancy and now we have a waiting list of tenants,” Warren Weiser, CREC chairman and partner, said. Weiser, CREC partner Alan Esquenazi and vice president Andrew Remick said the commercial real estate firm is looking to acquire more value-add properties like Royal University Plaza.

While the deal was off-market, Weiser said the firms were eventually planning on selling the shopping center.

Esquenazi and Sabrina Meerbott, director of retail leasing, handled leasing. Renovations included painting, landscaping, new lighting, adding an access turn lane and other facelift-type upgrades.

The $48 million sale is the second largest for a shopping center in Broward County so far this year, a spokesperson for CREC said. In February, InvenTrust Properties Corp. paid about $163 million for two shopping centers in Pembroke Pines, Paraiso Parc and Westfork Plaza, both on Pines Boulevard.

The asset manager arm of Zurich Insurance Group targets commercial real estate markets like Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Miami, according to its website. The asset manager’s real estate portfolio includes more than 20 million square feet of space in more than 200 properties.

Pollo Tropical spreads its wings to new HQ near Miami airport

Pollo Tropical spreads its wings to new HQ near Miami airport

Fast-casual chicken restaurant group reduced its footprint from 17,000 sf to 10,000 sf
March 03, 2017 12:45PM
By Katherine Kallergis

Pollo Tropical office (Credit: Gigi Alvarez) Inset: CREC’s Carol Brooks and Glenn Rozansky, vice president of real estate for Pollo Tropical

After nearly 20 years spent in fragmented office space in Dadeland and a test kitchen in Doral, Pollo Tropical has moved into a newly built-out space near Miami International Airport. 

Pollo Tropical, a subsidiary of Fiesta Restaurant Group, is leasing a 10,000-square-foot building at 7255 Corporate Center Drive, Carol Brooks told The Real Deal. Brooks, president and co-founder of CREC, represented Pollo Tropical in the lease along with senior leasing associate Katie Fernandez-Espinosa. Diana Parker, CBRE senior vice president, represented the Landing at MIA.

The new regional headquarters for Pollo Tropical includes an open floor plan of offices and conference space surrounding a roughly 1,100-square-foot test kitchen. The company went from leasing about 17,000 square feet on noncontiguous floors in an older building in the Dadeland area, plus a test kitchen in Doral, to a smaller and centralized space.

“They had grown over decades into a space that was no longer efficient and it didn’t accommodate their culture. They wanted to consolidate offices, their training facility and test kitchen under one roof with ease of access, abundant onsite parking and onsite amenities,” Brooks told TRD. “Those requirements – the parking and test kitchen – were inherently limited and that pushed us geographically.”

The building is within the Landing at MIA office park, which recently underwent a $17 million renovation, according to a press release. Records show SPUS7 Miami ACC Land LP owns the 50-acre complex. The limited partnership, which is controlled by CBRE Global Investors principal Claudia Walraven, paid $129.25 million for the office community in 2014.

Brooks declined to provide terms of the lease, including rents, but said that in general rents are lower in the Dadeland submarket, and that it’s difficult to compare rent within the airport submarket because of the kitchen and training facilities.

The popular fast-casual chicken restaurant chain added skylights to the building as part of the extensive build-out. Gigi Alvarez of G. Alvarez Studio designed the new headquarters.

“It’s so cool. We really talked a lot about culture; food is what they do, so the kitchen now is exposed to the central work area. Everybody has a view,” she said.

Swiss insurer makes landfall in Coral Gables with $58M investment pay

Swiss insurer makes landfall in Coral Gables with $58M investment play

Sellers more than doubled their money after 10 years of holding the property

June 06, 2016 03:45PM
By Sean Stewart-Muniz

2121 Ponce De Leon Boulevard

It looks like there’s still plenty of foreign investment to go around for Miami’s office market.

Zurich North America, an affiliate of a major Swiss insurance company, just closed on its $57.5 million purchase of the 2121 Ponce office tower in Coral Gables.

The deal was announced Monday by real estate companies Greenstreet Partners and CREC, which formed a joint-venture back in 2005 to buy the 13-story office building for $27.1 million.

Through the years, Greenstreet and CREC started renovating the common areas for 2121 Ponce, which was built in 1970. The companies brought the building up to 95 percent occupancy with an eclectic mix of tenants like the Consulate General of Barbados, Fox Latin America and Valley National Bank. CREC itself even took space in the building, and plans to stay even under the new ownership.

After roughly a decade of holding the property, Warren Weiser, chairman of CREC, told The Real Deal that the partners decided it was a good time to sell amidst a tightening office market.

“The asset performed pretty darn well even through the recession,” Weiser said. “It’s a very good market for both buyers and sellers right now.”

Weiser said the partners had an established relationship with Zurich, which keeps a U.S. office in New York. After touching base in February, the two parties “shook hands” in March and closed the deal last week.

“[Zurich] knows this market,” Weiser told TRD. “They made a very smart purchase because you can’t reproduce this building for the price they paid.”

The most recent sale of 2121 Ponce, which measures 164,848 square feet, breaks down to nearly $349 per foot. That’s more than double the $164 per foot that CRED and Greenstreet paid in 2005.

One explanation for that price explosion can be found in the latest market numbers from brokerage JLL. Although net absorption in Coral Gables was down by a fraction of a percentage point during the first quarter, there was no new office space under construction in the city at that time. Giralda Place has since broken ground with 58,000 square feet of offices. Meanwhile, office vacancies stood at 10.6 percent and rents were asking an average of $38.18 per square foot annually, according to JLL.

The deal was brokered by CREC’s Weiser, Harry Blyden and Andrew Remick, along with CBRE’s Christian Lee, Jose Lobon and Andrew Chilgren. On Zurich’s side, the firm was advised by its “alternative investment management” division. The Swiss insurance carrier has roughly 55,000 employees worldwide, and its North America division specializes in property-casualty coverage, according to its website.

It’s not unusual for insurance giants like Zurich to diversify into real estate: among U.S. firms, Prudential Financial boasts a thriving real estate arm that’s also bought into the Coral Gables office market.

Bulk Condos in Sunrise sell for $17M

Nearly 40 percent of a condominium complex in Sunrise sold for $17.13 million, CREC announced on Monday. The 141 units sold for an average of $121,450 or nearly $140 per square foot.

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Regency Manor apartments near MIA sell for $17.5M

A low-rise apartment complex just south of Miami International Airport has traded hands for $17.5 million or $118,000 per unit, Miami-Dade County records show.

A company tied to RAIT Financial Trust, a real estate investment trust based in Philadelphia, sold the 148-unit multifamily property in unincoporated Miami-Dade. CFO and treasurer James L. Sebra signed the deed transfer of ownership. Regency Manor Residences LLC is the buyer.

The 4.2-acre site, at 1102 Northwest 43rd Avenue, is near the Dolphin Expressway. It was built in 1969, according to county property records. The complex has seven buildings and a community pool. It includes 26 one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments and 122 two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments.

CREC Senior Vice President Peter Mekras represented the seller and worked with CREC’s Multifamily Transaction Analyst Chris Bate on the sale.

“The sale of Regency Manor speaks to the market’s vast demand for stable cash flow generated from apartments. Miami’s vibrant economy will allow for continued rent growth as development sites remain scarce,” Mekras said in a press release. “Apartment communities of scale in South Florida are primarily being acquired by institutions who recognize the discount to replacement cost and sustainable cash flow yield benefits for owning multifamily in a growing and high barrier to entry market like Miami.”

The buyer also obtained a $10.5 million mortgage from Banco Popular North America, records show. John Sismanoglou and Anthony Roussos are listed on the buyer’s corporate records.

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