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|Control of Santa Monica Developer's Pending Projects Shifted to New, Possibly Related, Company|
By Jonathan Friedman
January 9, 2017 -- Santa Monica-based NMS Properties announced Friday that it would voluntarily cede control of all its residential development projects in various stages of the approval pipeline, including 20 in Santa Monica, to a newly formed company named WNMS.
NMS will remain in charge of its existing buildings in Southern California, including those in Santa Monica.
Heading the new company is Scott Walter, who, according to a press release announcing the move, "recently served" as executive vice president of NMS for acquisitions and development.
The move comes at a time when NMS and its CEO Neil Shekhter are under scrutiny because of their well-publicized legal battle with Boston-based developer AEW ("Santa Monica Properties in Limbo as Developers’ Legal Battle Continues," December 22, 2016).
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge who had determined NMS committed a number of wrongdoings, including forgery and perjury, ordered the company to hand over control of nine of its existing properties (none involved in the WNMS move) to AEW.
That court decision is on hold pending appeal.
In reaction to the court decision, the City Council voted last month to review all of the municipal agreements with NMS for what Councilmember Kevin McKeown called "possible misstatements and their consequences"("Santa Monica Council Orders Review of NMS Holdings," December 8, 2016).
McKeown told The Lookout last month that he had "no particular indication at this time that any of the City's agreements and contracts with NMS contain false information," but a review was "only prudent."
What effect the NMS to WNMS shift will have on this review is unclear. It is also unclear whether WNMS is actually an entirely separate entity from NMS.
Eric Rose, who wrote the release announcing the latest news, would not directly answer questions about WNMS' independence.
The Lookout asked Rose in an email whether WNMS head Walter would still have involvement with NMS and whether the two companies would be separate entities.
Rose responded that "[Walter] will be focused solely on WMNS communities."
The Lookout then asked again whether Walter still works for NMS, and Rose responded, "As I said he's going to be focused solely on the new entity."
The news has sparked skepticism among NMS' fiercest critics.
On the Facebook message board for slow-growth activist group Residocracy, several people posted they did not believe this was actually a new company and wondered if "the City will play along."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story identified the head of WNMS as Scott Walker. It is Scott Walter.
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