By John Schaffner
The Griffin Co., the Sandy Springs-based real estate development company, apparently is going through a potential reorganization at the least and could be dissolved, according to rumors on the street, after the unexpected death of founder Joel Griffin in late February.
Among the rumors in the past week were that the company’s office was being closed, that there had been many layoffs and that Kirk Demetrops, who was named president of the company last fall, was no longer running the company.
“That is not true,” Demetrops told the Sandy Springs Reporter in a phone conversation April 25.
“With the estate and everything, we are just in a long process of evaluating how that all works,” Demetrops explained.
“Joel passed away about eight weeks ago,” he said. “There will probably be some changes over the next medium term. I don’t know exactly what that means, but with the sudden death and the surviving spouse and winding through some things to develop a long-term strategy for the business, it could take some time.”
Griffin, 62, was survived by wife Lynda Harris Griffin, daughters Allison Griffin Bittel and Lindsay Harris Griffin, two grandsons, and brother R.J. “Jim” Griffin Jr.
Demetrops said the company’s construction department “had a few layoffs, but I don’t know of a construction business that hasn’t had massive layoffs in the past six months.”
“We are just trying to tidy up to stay strong through the next couple of years and just do the work that we have,” he added. “It wouldn’t be dissimilar to what is going on across the board. I even know R.J. Griffin (the construction company owned by Joel’s brother) has laid off a lot of people.”
Two people who had heard rumors about layoffs and the company shutting down were Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos and Charlie Sewell, who was celebrating the grand opening of the new Sewell Appliances store on Trowbridge Road, which was constructed for the family by The Griffin Co. Clearly the rumor has circulated in the city where Griffin is considered a corporate leader and its founder was a community leader.
“It is just a lot of problem rumors because of a lot of different things that are on the table,” Demetrops said. “Ninety percent of what is going on is obviously severe market correction, and every developer in town is re-examining the things they are going to do in the next couple of years to be profitable. Ours is a little more in depth due to the passing of Joel.”
Asked if he is still the president of the company, Demetrops said, “Yes.”
Asked if the company is still operating out of the same offices, he again responded, “Yes.”
Then Demetrops was asked whether Joel’s brother, Jim, is playing a major role in whatever changes are happening at The Griffin Co.
“Joel did appoint Jim, R.J. Griffin, to an advisory role to the estate. So, yes, that certainly has been one step of the process … getting him up to speed,” Demetrops said. “He is basically semiretired. He was in the business, but he was a big contractor. They (the businesses) are related, but they are very different.
“That has sort of been the process. There are a lot of things going on, like I said.”
But he said most of what is going on at Griffin also is happening across the industry.
“I have been with every real estate developer in this town in the last two months,” he said. “All I am doing is talking to people, just evaluating kind of what the opportunities are. Then we are working with the estate on kind of the long-term solutions for the business and the deals we own and all that kind of stuff. It takes time.”
Demetrops said there could be some news in a few months. “There is just a lot of talk, a lot of stuff going on,” he said. “It will all pan out in the next few months … and then we will probably have something to tell people.”