Florida East Coast Inc. Buys Codina; Railroad Operator Ups Its Real Estate Holdings

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BASCH

While Florida East Coast Industries Inc. is known mainly as a railroad operator, the company took a step Friday to expand its commercial real estate business by agreeing to buy Codina Group Inc., a major South Florida industrial developer.

St. Augustine-based Florida East Coast said it would acquire Codina for $270 million and combine it with its Flagler Development Co. subsidiary, which develops and operates commercial properties in Jacksonville, Orlando and South Florida.

"While both Codina Group and Flagler have been very successful participants in the Florida real estate market, we believe that the combination of the two creates one of the premier real estate companies in one of the most dynamic markets in the United States," said Florida East Coast Chairman and CEO Adolfo Henriques in a conference call with analysts.

Codina Group has developed about 11 million square feet of industrial, office and retail space in South Florida and has had a high profile throughout the state. Before becoming governor of Florida, Jeb Bush was the company's president, holding the number two spot in the company behind Chairman and Chief Executive Armando Codina.

Codina will become president and CEO of the combined Flagler and Codina Group. Henriques said the company is still working out structural details of the merger, including determining if Flagler and Codina Group will continue operating as separate subsidiaries of Florida East Coast. But Armando Codina will be in charge of the company's entire commercial real estate business.

Florida East Coast also announced Friday that Flagler President John Carey has left the company to pursue other interests. Carey did not return a voice mail message Friday.

Although Codina made his mark in the Miami area, he has strong ties to Jacksonville. In a telephone interview Friday, the native of Cuba said he moved to Jacksonville as a teenager and graduated from Bishop Kenny High School. He also briefly attended Jacksonville University.

"They threw me out," Codina said with a laugh.

But while he was unsuccessful in college, Codina proved to be successful in business and currently serves on the board of directors of several major companies: General Motors, Merrill Lynch, BellSouth and AMR. …