Westfield founder and chairman Frank Lowy says he is “totally at peace” with the $33 billion takeover of his shopping empire that heralds his retirement.
Mr Lowy’s teary farewell of his almost 60 year-old company was on Thursday met with a standing ovation from current and former executives along with shareholders at his final annual general meeting as Westfield chairman.
The company was established in Sydney’s west and listed on the share market in 1960, before growing rapidly under the control of Mr Lowy, who was chief executive for 50 years before handing over to his sons Steven and Peter in 2011.
Shareholders on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favour of the takeover by Paris property giant Unibail-Rodamco – a deal that Mr Lowy described as “highly compelling” and one that had brought about his retirement “very naturally”.
“Of course, there is a tinge of sadness,” Mr Lowy said in his final address.
“But I must tell you, I am totally at peace with the decision, which is supported by the vast majority of shareholders.”
The deal was overwhelmingly supported by Unibail shareholders at a meeting last week, and backed by Westfield directors and the Lowy family – whose stake in Westfield is valued at just over $3 billion.
The company’s security holders will receive $US2.67 ($A3.53) in cash and 0.01844 securities in Unibail for each Westfield share.
The takeover excludes Westfield’s shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, which will remain under the control of separately listed entity Scentre Group, and will make Unibail-Rodamco the world’s largest shopping centre owner with 104 shopping centres in 13 countries, all of which will now carry the Westfield brand.
Mr Lowy’s son, Steven, spoke on behalf of his brothers Peter and David in thanking their father for his dedication and hard work.
“I want to say what a privilege it has been to work with our father, and our chairman, Frank Lowy,” Steven Lowy said on Thursday.
“He is recognised globally as a business legend, a great Australian, and we are all proud and privileged to have shared this journey together.”
Mr Lowy, who will now chair a newly created advisory board for Unibail, became emotional when recalling his arrival to Australia as a World War II refugee and Holocaust survivor, and described the feeling of freedom as “overwhelming”.
“No-one was chasing me, and I didn’t have to hide,” the 87-year-old said.
“I encountered no prejudice. Instead, I was embraced and given every opportunity to flourish.”
He expressed his gratitude to Australia and thanked his family, and Westfield for the “incredible journey”.
“I leave with no regrets, only faith in the future for the new Westfield, and for Australia,” Mr Lowy said.
“With these words and with your permission I will close the meeting and say goodbye.”