September 5, 2012 / 9:07 PM / 8 years ago

Exclusive - General Growth board looking to hire banker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Growth Properties Inc’s GGP.N board is looking to hire an investment bank, a week after activist investor Bill Ackman stepped up pressure on the No. 2 U.S. mall owner to consider putting itself up for sale, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Ackman, who controls a 10.5 percent stake in General Growth, has urged General Growth’s independent directors to form a special committee to consider a sale.

But it could not be learned whether the board was planning to do so or was hiring a bank as a defensive move.

Brookfield Asset Management Inc (BAMa.TO), which owns 42.2 percent of General Growth and has three seats on the board, has said it has no interest in selling its stake.

Investment bankers are making presentations to the board this week, the sources said.

General Growth spokesman David Keating declined to comment.

Ackman, who runs hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, urged the board to form a committee of directors that were not affiliated with Brookfield, according to two letters filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

Last year, Ackman had presented a plan for Simon Property Group (SPG.N), the No. 1 U.S. mall owner, to buy General Growth for 0.1765 in Simon stock or about $21 a share, according to the filings.

Simon CEO David Simon said he would be interested if the majority shareholders were on board, according to the filings.

Brookfield, however, rebuffed the arrangement and said it wanted to buy the rest of the company it did not own. But a deal did not materialize.

Last month, Brookfield said it was “not taking any steps to acquire GGP, nor is it having any discussions with third parties in that regard.”

Ackman and Brookfield could not be reached immediately for comment.

Shares of General Growth rose 1 percent, or 22 cents, to $20.98 on Wednesday. Shares of Simon were down 0.5 percent, or 80 cents at $157.95.

Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Gary Hill and Phil Berlowitz

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