February 15, 2024

Virginia Beach-based Armada Hoffler announces top leadership changes

By Sandra Pennecke at The Virginian-Pilot

Armada Hoffler, developer of Town Center of Virginia Beach, announced upcoming transitions in its top leadership for its next generation of growth.

“It’s not easy to walk away from something after 45 years,” founder Dan Hoffler said. “It’s time for new leadership and time to know when to walk out and let this next generation take this company to the next level.”

Since its start in 1979, Armada Hoffler has been developing, building, acquiring and managing multifamily, office and retail properties — growing its real estate portfolio to over $2 billion. Its flagship mixed-use development, Town Center, is home to its headquarters.

Hoffler, executive chairman for the board of directors, said he is excited about the succession plan in place for his legacy.

“In this company, I want people to know that stability is the order of the day,” Hoffler said.

In mid-June, Hoffler will relinquish his role but remain on the board as chairman emeritus. CEO Lou Haddad will assume the role of chairman and maintain both titles for the upcoming year. Chief Operating Officer Shawn Tibbetts will become Armada Hoffler’s new president.

When Haddad steps down from his role as chief executive in the spring of 2025, Tibbetts is expected to be appointed to that position. The company is aiming for a seamless transition.

While roles are changing, the company’s values and the industry formula for success in real estate — consistency of location, quality and meeting the market where it stands — will remain the same, Haddad said.

Armada Hoffler has a substantial pipeline of development in process, including the delivery of $600 million worth of real estate assets in the next few quarters and $500 million worth of third-party construction work, Tibbetts added.

“As a long-tenured CEO, perhaps the most important job that you have is to find and mentor your replacement,” Haddad said. “And if you do your job really well, you find someone who has the potential to eclipse the accomplishments of his predecessor. I think we’ve found that in Shawn.”

Haddad, recruited to the company in 1985 as an on-site construction superintendent, quickly moved up the ranks to president of the construction division in 1987, president of all Armada Hoffler entities in 1996 and then to CEO in 1999.

The real estate investment trust went public in May 2013 under Haddad’s leadership. It maintains a board of directors with several well-known members, including George Allen, former Virginia governor and U.S. senator, and John W. Snow, former U.S. treasury secretary.

Tibbetts, a Portsmouth native who joined the company five years ago, said he is honored and humbled by the opportunity.

“It’s an interesting opportunity to be able to work with the founders of a firm to use that foundation they have built and continue to grow the firm and take it to new heights,” Tibbetts said.

The company has grown from three employees to a roster of 170. Tibbetts, with more than two decades in corporate leadership, stressed it’s all about a team approach.

“It’s not a me-thing; it’s a we-thing,” he said. “It’s about the culture we have here and the values we use to underpin our daily decisions and actions.”

Like in the transition of leadership, mentorship was key for growing the company to operations spanning seven Mid-Atlantic states, Hoffler said.

It was the late 1970s when a young Hoffler, armed with “grandiose plans,” cast off the doubters claiming his vision was unrealistic.

“Seventy-five percent of the people said I would never make it, didn’t have the right education and didn’t come from the right place,” Hoffler said. “And I think the other 25% wished I wouldn’t make it.”

It was Jim Fisher, then-chairman of Armada Petroleum in Houston, who listened to Hoffler’s vision for a corporate headquarters in a business park in what would become the Greenbrier section of Chesapeake.

“At that point, building in Chesapeake was like building in Outer Mongolia,” Hoffler said.

Fisher gave him a chance, stroking a check for $2.7 million, and Armada Hoffler was born. Hoffler said he doesn’t dwell on the naysayers of his early days, but instead focuses on accomplishing goals as a team.

“I was able to mentor very talented people, and they all believed that we could do something extraordinary and we absolutely have,” he said.

Hoffler made note of a pin on his lapel that he and other employees wear symbolizing excellence, pride, integrity and honesty. Those principles have shaped the company as a recognized top place to work in Hampton Roads.

“We have created and fostered an environment of caring about our employees — not just from a professional standpoint, but from a personal standpoint,” Hoffler said.

And that is the kind of Armada Hoffler he said he knows will continue with Haddad and Tibbetts at the forefront.

“It’s been an incredible ride,” Haddad said. “And a story of growth and positivity.”

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