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Mr. Litt returns to the north

Jonathan who?The last time Jonathan Litt’s name circulated through Canada’s capital markets, he was barking up Peter Munk’s leg in a way Mr. Munk did not like.Now he’s back, with a plan for the Hudson’s Bay Co. to, you know, unlock shareholder value. In 2002, Litt was senior retail analyst with Salomon Smith Barney, with a specialty in real estate investment trusts, or REITs. Litt had some sharp views about the corporate governance at Peter Munk’s Trizec, which had converted its principal U.S. holdings — 74 office towers — to a REIT in the spring of that year while retaining control through multiple voting shares of the initiating Canadian company.Litt liked the conversion. What he didn’t like was this crazy Canadian special voting structure. “The root of the issue is the lack of corporate governance in place at the company as a result of Chairman Peter Munk’s control of the board,” Litt wrote in an analyst’s note. “This control has resulted in key decisions being made driven by a desire to preserve the tax basis rather than maximize shareholder value. We see no easing in the pain for TRZ shareholders until the current structure is collapsed and Mr. Munk’s control over the election of TRZ’s board is eliminated.”Article Continued BelowDuring an analyst’s call, Litt suggested Munk wake up to the new world of corporate governance — the WorldCom executives had just been arrested, he pointed out — and lowered his analyst rating from “outperform” to “sell.” The stock took a hit.Munk sued for defamation. The case was settled in the spring of 2005 with Citigroup Global Markets — the renamed Salomon — apologizing for “any embarrassment” the statements may have caused. Citigroup additionally donated $2 million to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital.Just because we up here haven’t heard much from Litt in the ensuing years doesn’t mean he’s been quiet. He runs his amusingly named Land & Buildings investment management company from Stamford, Conn., branding itself as a REIT specialist with an activist focus.

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