Update: Dan Gilbert Explains Why He Called Fleeing Pulte Head a 'Punk'

May 31, 2013, 9:50 AM

Pulte Group, Inc., a publicly traded national home-builder, is relocating its headquarters from Bloomfield Hills to Georgia.

The company confirms the news in a statement Friday morning.

"We have historically managed our growth from Michigan, but the Company has reached a point where we must pursue a strategy that better fits with the long-term growth trends for our company and industry. This relocation will bring us closer to our customers and a larger portion of our investment portfolio. This was not an easy decision but I am confident that it is the right choice, at the right time, for the ongoing success of the organization."

Richard Dugas, Jr., the chairman and CEO, formerly headed a company division based in Atlanta.

A leading downtown booster, Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert, reacts to the departure with a sharp tweet:

". . . punk CEO & invertebrate board even worse than its P&L last 5 years & that's hard to do." [Invertebrate is a highbrow way of saying spineless.] 

In an interview with John Gallagher of the Free Press Friday afternoon, Gilbert elaborated, saying such moves amount to a failure of corporate citizenship.

“Let’s put it this way,” Gilbert told Gallgher. “When a guy is willing to move the headquarters of a 63-year-old Michigan-based company in the middle of the night basically without even consulting with the founder’s family, I think that pretty much speaks for itself. The words in the tweet are pretty appropriate.”

Then, referring to Ralph Babb, the chairman and CEO of Comerica who moved the bank’s headquarters from Detroit to Texas, Gilbert said Pulte’s Dugas “went to the Ralph Babb school of corporate citizenship.”

“The problem with these guys is they don’t tell the truth,” Gilbert said. 

Pulte Group, founded in Michigan in 1950, is one of the country’s largest home builders with operations in nearly 60 metropolitan markets in 28 states. Its three brands are Pulte Homes, Del Webb and Centex.

The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed sources saying the company is seeking 80,000 to 100,000 square feet of office space for about 300 workers.

In Bloomfield Hills, Pulte human resources vice president James Ellinghausen says in Friday's statement:

"It is too early to determine how many employees will ultimately assume positions in Georgia, but for those individuals who do not relocate we will offer a very fair severance package and related outplacement services to help locate a new position in Michigan as the surrounding economy continues to improve."

Business writer Aaron Foley posts this reaction at Jalopnik Detroit:

Symbolically and financially, it will strike a blow to metro Detroit's identity and economy. . . .

Alas, like Comerica and Motown before it, Pulte Homes' financial base may be served better elsewhere despite its roots in the Mitten.

At the Detroit Free Press, JC Reindl notes an irony:

In February, Mayor Dave Bing used his State of the City address to unveil the Detroit Blight Authority, a public-private partnership with founder William J. Pulte’s grandson, Bill Pulte, to demolish vacant structures throughout the city.

-- Alan Stamm

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