The Lobby

It’s True: Bruce Ratner to Step Down as Forest City CEO

Bruce Ratner is stepping down as CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, a source tied to the organization tells The Commercial Observer, confirming rumors that have been swirling around the industry for the past year.

Mr. Ratner, 68, will step aside this winter, assuming the role of company chairman and putting MaryAnne Gilmartin, the firm’s current executive vice president of development and leasing, at the helm of the firm’s day-to-day operations, the source said.

“It’s been in the works for a significant amount of time… over the last year or so,” the source said.  “Everyone knows Bruce is a mentor to her (Ms. Gilmartin) and that she was being groomed for the role.”

“The stories are accurate,” he added, referring to the string of media reports that followed suit after an initial report published in Crain’s yesterday.

The decision begs the question of whether the man behind the Barclays Center and Metrotech Center in Brooklyn, and the 52-Story marvel and home to The New York Times at 620 Eighth Avenue, has simply had enough of the day-to-day squabbles that characterized the last decade of his tenure at the firm.

(Credit: Associated Press)

(Credit: Associated Press)

Mr. Ratner could not be reached for comment and Ms. Gilmartin did not return calls and emails seeking comment.  A company spokesperson also declined comment, but sources said Mr. Ratner would still be involved with day-to-day decision-making at the firm, despite stepping away from the limelight.

Mr. Ratner’s longstanding reputation as a proponent of innovative design was infused with newfound grit and determination over the past decade, as the epic battle at his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn unfolded.

“The cynics can doubt.  The critics can nay-say.  Conspiracy theorists can spin wild tales.  But Atlantic Yards is too important to the ongoing vitality of Brooklyn and New York for us to come up short,” Mr. Ratner wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the New York Daily News in 2008.

Though he was forced to make major concessions to appease harsh critics and compensate for the economic slump, he ultimately realized the project’s centerpiece, the Barclays Center, last September (albeit in a form that was a dramatically slimmed down and “industrialized” version of the original grandiose plan).

Similarly, a revised plan for the residential component of the project, which calls for the building of the tallest modular building in the world, is also a far cry from the original plans.  But Mr. Gehry’s decision to set the old plans aside may have set off a revolution for more modular buildings to rise in the city.

Ms. Gilmartin, who joined the firm in 1994, is a staple of the real estate industry, often credited as one of the powerful women in real estate who shattered the ceiling in what was long-considered a “boys only” club.

“It’s fascinating to look back at where [the real estate industry] was in the ’80s,” she told The Commercial Observer last month.  “Look, we were prohibited from wearing slacks.”

Follow Al Barbarino on Twitter or via RSS. abarbarino@observer.com