ATLANTA — As R. Dary Stone prepares to take the reins as president and COO of Atlanta-based Cousins Properties Inc., his goal is to continue the company's reputation as a leader in office and retail development throughout the country. Despite some industry speculation that his office background will encourage him to favor that sector over retail, Stone emphasized he has no such agenda.

“I have no intention of favoring one over the other,” Stone said. “I am surprised by the amount of speculation people are making. This is an incredibly run business, and I do not want to do anything to hinder that. The company will be involved in whatever the markets allow us to be involved in at that time. That will be the litmus test.”

The fully integrated REIT (NYSE: CUZ) has been publicly traded since 1962 and has achieved a 21% annualized total return for its shareholders during the past five years. As of Feb. 23, shares closed at $26.02, off a 52-week high of $30.41.

Stone will replace current president Dan DuPree, who will step down March 31 after five years at the helm. DuPree is leaving the company because he wants a reprieve after working “nonstop for 20 years” in real estate, although he did say he is not retiring permanently.

Stone joins Cousins from Dallas-based Cousins Stone LP, an affiliate of Cousins Properties, where he was president and a board member. Stone will relocate to Atlanta from Dallas and will start his new position April 1.

“I am honored and overwhelmed to be selected,” Stone said. “I was happy where I was at Cousins Stone, but I decided to make this move because of Tom Cousins. He is truly one of the most well-regarded and respected men in the commercial real estate industry. I want to help him and his purposes. If it were not for him, I would not have taken the position.”

Stone founded the predecessor to Cousins Stone, originally named R.D. Stone Interests, 10 years ago. In 1999, Cousins acquired a 50% interest in the company and renamed it Cousins Stone. Stone built his reputation in the Dallas office market and is currently chairman of Cousins Stone LP, of which Cousins Properties now owns 75%. Stone owns the remaining 25%. Dary Stone will sell his Cousins Stone holdings for an estimated $4 million with his after-tax proceeds likely to be reinvested in Cousins stock.

“Our goals as a company are to develop more deals and expand the relationships we have now,” Stone said. “Cousins has always taken care of those relationships and I want to further that. It is a blessing to have that base and harvest available.”