Northwood buying Bissell in record billion-dollar deal, sources say
UPDATE 6:30 p.m., March 1: Bissell Companies confirmed that it has completed the sale of most of its interests in Ballantyne Corporate Park to Northwood Investors. “The experience of developing Ballantyne Corporate Park over the last 21 years with such a talented and dedicated group of team members has exceeded my wildest dreams,” Smoky Bissell said in a statement. “I will forever be grateful to our 600+ team members, as together we have made Ballantyne Corporate Park what it is today.” Terms weren’t disclosed. Read the full announcement here.
New York investment firm Northwood Investors is closing its purchase of Bissell Cos. this week, four people familiar with the matter say. Terms are expected to exceed $1 billion, making it the largest real estate transaction in Charlotte history.
Northwood is buying almost all of Bissell’s Ballantyne Corporate Park in south Charlotte, which has continually expanded since initial construction started in 1996, the people said.
Commercial Mortgage Alert, an industry newsletter, reported on the deal on Jan. 11, citing a price of $1.2 billion.The Charlotte Observer first reported on Northwood’s interest in Bissell in January. Northwood executive Erwin Aulis signed off on dozens of new corporations with names matching building names at Ballantyne in filings with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, the newspaper noted.
Bissell spokeswoman Christina Thigpen declined comment via an e-mail. A phone call to Northwood wasn’t immediately returned.
H.A. “Smoky” Bissell is an iconic Charlotte developer who founded his company in 1964. His late wife, Sara, was the daughter of Charlotte insurance and real estate investor James J. Harris and granddaughter of former N.C. Gov. Cameron Morrison. The Harris family owned wide swaths of southern Mecklenburg County, including the SouthPark area that was largely developed by Bissell and his brother-in-law Johnny Harris. After the duo split most of their business ties, Bissell started working on the Ballantyne office park, hotels and golf course. The development is among the state’s biggest office parks with more than 4 million square feet of space in a 535-acre area.
“The Ballantyne transaction would represent the largest office trade in the history of Charlotte and the history of North Carolina,” says Ryan Clutter, senior managing director of HFF, a Boston-based real-estate finance company. He declined to comment on any transaction involving Bissell or Northwood. “It would signify how desirable the market is for institutional capital.”
Northwood is active in Charlotte through its Northwood Ravin multifamily development company. It owns the 51-story VUE apartments, Charlotte’s largest residential tower. The company was founded in 2006 by John Kukral, the former president and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors. Northwood managed $6 billion of assets as of early 2016, according to its website.
Bissell President Ned Curran is among the city’s most active corporate leaders. He is chairman of the North Carolina Department of Transportation and is a former Charlotte Chamber chairman.
Bissell’s son, Howard Bissell III, and son-in-law, Joe Hallow, have told friends in recent days that they will be leaving the company, according to people familiar with the situation. Howard Bissell is an executive vice president, while Hallow is president of Ballantyne Hotels.
While Northwood is buying most of Ballantyne, Bank of America is acquiring one building there for use by its staff, a source familiar with the situation said.