Pete Redfern, CEO of U.K.-based public “house builder”
Taylor Wimpey, traveled—on business—to the United States midyear, as new symptoms of the housing sector's bipolar disorder started showing up around May or June. An A-list of home building company chief executives and an equally vaunted parade of private equity and hedge fund strategists cleared time in their schedules to talk with Redfern.
How much Redfern did the talking and how much he listened to this high-voltage group of endemic and financial deal-makers and game-changers are the stuff of non-disclosure agreements. Topping the agenda of each face-to-face was Taylor Wimpey's North American subsidiary Taylor Morrison, what it might be worth, and the options Redfern could viably consider for the unit in light of the number of interested parties and their financial firepower.
The answer is several, and a lot.
After Redfern's visit, the question on both sides of the pond remains: Is Taylor Morrison for sale? The answer is no. Or yes.
Here's how Taylor Morrison president and CEO Sheryl Palmer responds to chronic speculation that the business she runs is in play.
“At some point in our future, it will likely be true,” Palmer says.
This may or may not calm the ranks of her associates, but it serves well as new-normal candor and cuts off further conjecture at the knees. At the end of the day, a sale is less a question of if than when, but when could be six months or 18 months or more.
“When that is, I can't tell you. What I can tell you right now is nobody's bought us; the company's not on the market today; and the rumors keep going. Do we continue to explore all of our options? Absolutely. That's our obligation [to our shareholders]. When I tell you the speculation will be true—and what I tell the team a lot—is eventually it happens. Eventually there will be a strategy that will make sense for this organization that could be different than what we are today. But it's not something I can let myself get caught up with day to day. I'm on the [Taylor Wimpey] board; I'm involved with the day-to-day decisions from a group perspective. We're going to continue to operate our business.”
So the real answer is definitely, maybe, sometime, it depends.
No doubt, there are those who'd covet Taylor Morrison, both as an entity with deep operating talent and as a set of land assets in a scarce asset landscape—especially in the long run. But those for whom the company may make most sense are also those who are notoriously reluctant to pay premiums for what they buy.