Mark Stevens. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Mark Stevens. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

Mark Stevens, CEO of Fortress, one of the members of the embattled Resilient group of property companies, will  retire from his roles at the company within the next 12 months.

Fortress, which owns a large portfolio of high-end industrial properties and commuter retail centres, saw its B-type shares' price come under fire in January 2018 when investors fled the stock.

A number of investors sold their Fortress B-type shares, sending the stock crashing. Fortress B shares are down two-thirds so far in 2018. It started the year at R41.43 a share and closed at R13.85 on Monday.Shares in other  Resilient companies — Nepi Rockcastle, Resilient and Greenbay — are also down sharply in 2018.

Fortress is structured into A and B shares for investors with different risk profiles. B shares are for risk-seeking investors as their dividends are paid from the remaining distributable income after A shareholders have been paid. The A shares are considered to be for risk-averse investors.  

Stevens worked at  Old Mutual Properties for 10 years before becoming MD of Fortress when it listed in 2009, and later CEO. He said his intention to retire within the next 12 months formed "part of a broader strategy to have a vibrant succession plan in place in accordance with good corporate governance principles".

Fortress's interim financial director, Steven Brown, is Fortress CEO designate.

“I have been working very closely with Steven in recent years and, in order to ensure a seamless transition over the coming months, will continue to do so,” said Stevens.

Brown joined Fortress from Capital Property Fund after the acquisition of the company by Fortress in December 2015. 

Ian Vorster has been appointed as the new chief financial officer and financial director of Fortress. Vorster is a chartered accountant and joined Fortress in October 2018 from Grant Thornton, where he served as head of corporate finance since 2015. 

The new management changes come amid allegations of insider trading at the Resilient group of companies. Ten of SA’s largest investment managers sent a letter to the boards of the Resilient group of companies, including the Fortress’s board, in August demanding an  independent investigation. 

The allegations include suggestions of insider trading within  the companies and that their stocks may have been manipulated.

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) has been investigating allegations against Fortress since March, studying trades around its shares and the company's financial reporting. It has given no indication of when it will release its results.

andersona@businesslive.co.za