Michael Waters stepping down as CEO of Minto Apartment REIT

Michael Waters
Michael Waters is stepping down as CEO of Minto Apartment REIT as of April 3. Photo courtesy Minto Apartment REIT

Real estate veteran Michael Waters is stepping down as CEO of Minto Apartment REIT, the second high-profile executive to vacate the organization’s C-suite in the last six months.

Minto REIT said Monday that Waters, who also serves as chief executive of the Minto Group, is leaving the publicly traded company effective April 3 to focus on his responsibilities at the REIT’s sister organization. 

Waters will continue to serve as a trustee of the REIT, which he has led since its launch in 2018. Minto has named Jonathan Li, who is currently the REIT’s president and chief operating officer, as his replacement.

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“I am incredibly proud of the growth of the REIT’s portfolio of high-quality apartments in Canada’s largest urban centres, with consistently high levels of occupancy in our existing buildings and a development pipeline which ensures our ability to continue expanding in these markets,” Waters said in a news release on Monday.

The longtime real estate and finance executive’s departure follows former Minto REIT chief financial officer Julie Morin’s decision to resign in November to concentrate on her role as CFO at Minto Group. Edward Fu, who spent three years as the REIT’s vice-president of finance, replaced Morin.

Waters joined Minto Group, one of the city’s real estate developers, in 2007 after stints as a manager at accounting giants KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers and senior vice-president at now-defunct B.C.-based travel resort operator Intrawest. 

The University of British Columbia commerce graduate served as Minto Group’s CFO for four years before becoming president of Minto Communities, the company’s homebuilding division, in 2011. He was promoted to CEO in late 2013.

Waters has held the dual role of chief executive officer at Minto REIT since the company was spun off from Minto Group in a $230-million initial public offering in July 2018. Since then, it has grown into one of Canada’s largest real estate investment trusts, with a market capitalization of more than $630 million. 

The REIT’s assets were worth $2.7 billion last September, up from $1.1 billion at its launch. The company now owns 32 multi-residential properties in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton with a total of nearly 8,300 apartment units, and it has more than 2,300 suites in its construction pipeline in Ontario and B.C. 

Minto Group executive chairman Roger Greenberg said Waters and the REIT’s board of trustees believe it is time for the organization to have a full-time “dedicated CEO” to oversee its rapidly growing operations, adding the board has “great confidence” in Li’s leadership.

A commerce graduate of McGill University, Li spent more than two decades at BMO Capital Markets, including eight years as a managing director in the Toronto-based firm’s North American real estate investment banking group.

Since joining the REIT last April, Li has overseen all aspects of its real estate portfolio and operations and has led the teams in charge of the firm’s asset management, development, property operations and investor relations. 

“He has demonstrated his value since joining the management team last year, particularly as the REIT navigates difficult capital market conditions,” Greenberg said in a statement. “We look forward to working with him as he takes Minto Apartment REIT to the next level of its growth and evolution.”

The move comes as the company continues to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic, which damped demand for rental housing. 

The firm generated funds from operations of $15.7 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2022, up more than 25 per cent from $12.5 million a year earlier as rental gains on new leases at its properties soared to near-record highs.

The average occupancy rate of the REIT’s unfurnished suites rose to 96.2 per cent, compared with 92.9 per cent in the same period in 2021. Meanwhile, overall revenue rose 21.1 per cent year-over-year to $37.8 million, and the firm reported net operating income of $24.2 million, up 24.8 per cent.

Minto REIT’s units were up 34 cents to $15.92 in late-afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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