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Michael Emory, President and CEO Allied REIT while visiting one of his company's buildings under renovations on Richmond St., in Toronto on Nov. 4, 2011. Mr. Emory will become executive chair with CFO Cecilia Williams taking over as CEO.Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust AP-UN-T is promoting from within, choosing chief financial officer Cecilia Williams to take over as CEO from founder Michael Emory, who will become executive chair.

In his new role, Mr. Emory will focus on vision, strategy and culture on a full-time basis, according to Allied, which means not all that much may change. Ms. Williams, the new chief executive officer, has worked with Mr. Emory for years and was named CFO in 2015.

Allied is also shuffling its board of trustees, with Jennifer Tory set to take over as lead trustee after the REIT’s annual general meeting this spring. Current board chair Gordon Cunningham is retiring, as is audit committee head Gerald Connor. Allied’s current chief operating officer, Tom Burns, is stepping down from his executive role, but will join the board.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Allied was adored by Canadian investors because its units consistently delivered strong annual returns. The company has struggled since February, 2020, however, and its units have plummeted 50 per cent from their record high set that month.

Best known for its low-rise office buildings in downtown cores, Allied has suffered from a double whammy of rising interest rates and hybrid working.

Rising rates make mortgages more expensive, and they have also changed the calculus for retail investors, who used to love REITS for their monthly payouts. Lately, though, ultrasafe investments such as guaranteed investment certificates have offered similar short-term yields.

As well, Allied has been developing properties, such as The Well in downtown Toronto, and development requires a lot of cash. For much of the past decade, REITs were able to sell new shares to finance such developments, but with so many of their unit prices slumping they are unable to at the moment.

To help navigate the challenging market, Allied recently announced it is considering a sale of its data-centre portfolio. If completed, the deal could help the commercial landlord pay down debt. The largest of these three properties is 151 Front St. W., a major telecom hub, in Toronto. The company values the portfolio at $1.3-billion.

To fill the hole created by Ms. Williams’s promotion to CEO, Nanthini Mahalingam, currently a senior vice-president in finance and accounting, will become CFO.