Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lotsa Layoffs - WCI Layoffs - Mostly Due to Issues in Florida

Wow, Southwest Florida seems to be getting hit particularly hard with the layoffs. WCI, Centex, Lennar Bonita Bay Group all announce major layoffs and restructuring...Stories of more homebuilder layoffs follow:

Bonita Springs-based builder WCI Communities Inc. has eliminated 575 jobs as part of a restructuring plan announced last week amid the continued housing slump. About 80 percent of the cuts are due to restructuring in Florida — the core of the company's operations — and the rest come from changes to operations in the Mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast, said Jim Dietz, chief financial officer."In Florida, we've combined our tower and traditional homebuilding teams," Dietz said.

Many of the jobs cut were division leaders and managers whose jobs were redundant when the two operations merged, Dietz said.The move will cut the company's work force to about 2,100 jobs — down about 46 percent from a 2006 peak of 3,889 — and generate annual savings of about $46 million in salaries and benefits. One-time costs of the restructuring, including severance, are about $5.4 million.

"This prolonged downturn requires that we continue to assess our overhead and make reductions in order to remain viable through the trough of this cycle," President and Chief Executive Jerry Starkey said in a statement.The cuts are the latest in a wave of job losses that have hit the home-building industry in Southwest Florida since the real-estate boom fizzled:• First Home Builders in Fort Myers, which two years ago was Lee County's biggest residential contractor with almost 1,200 employees, will be down to about 50 following its layoff — announced Oct. 29 — of 200 workers effective Dec. 28.

• The Bonita Bay Group, based in Bonita Springs, has trimmed about 60 jobs since May.

• On Sept. 4, Lennar Homes announced the layoff of 72 people from its Southwest Florida division, from Naples to Manatee County.

• In March, Centex Homes laid off 141 employees from Naples to Sarasota.WCI reported a net loss of $33.2 million in the quarter ended June 30 and is expected to announce quarterly results today. Alex Perez, an advertising director in the marketing department, was among those let go. Perez said he was notified when he got to work."They give you a severance package you can take and they are paying for the week, but they basically tell you to gather your things and leave," Perez said. Perez, 42, had been with the company for about 18 months. He said his severance package offers six weeks pay and some extended medical coverage."I came just after the last cuts and you kind of wonder if that is it," Perez said.WCI cut about 600 jobs in July 2006, citing the slowdown in construction.

The company also announced David Fry will assume the post of chief operating officer and will be responsible for WCI's Florida tower homebuilding in addition to his previous responsibilities for the company's traditional homebuilding, real estate services and amenities lines of business. In the new organizational structure, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic traditional homebuilding regions will be combined, reporting to Fry. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Tower
Homebuilding divisions also will be combined and will report directly to Starkey.

The company's board also announced that seven members will take no compensation for the rest of 2007 and all of 2008 and the remaining two members — Hilliard M. Eure III, chairman of the audit committee, and Jonathan Macey — will accept reduced compensation of $50,000 each.

Board members earned between $140,000 and $180,000 in 2006.The move will save the company about $1 million, Dietz said. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn was elected to the board of directors in August and then was named chairman, ending months of a proxy fight for control of the company. In March, Icahn had offered $22 per share for the company, but the move was blocked by the board at the time.

WCI Layoffs, Centex Layoffs, Lennar Lay offs, Bonita Bay Group Layoffs

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