The UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Real Estate Club made its annual two-day fall break trip to New York City to hear from leading real estate employers. In all, eleven employers hosted the 25 students over the course of the two days. Each host provided a unique perspective on the market, competitive landscapes and professional development.
Thursday started with a visit to Morgan Stanley, where we heard from the real estate investment banking team about recent activity in their group, day-in-the-life experiences and the Morgan Stanley platform.
For our second visit, we toured the AVA High Line project, hosted by development manager, Jon Vogel. The development of the High Line has spurred a boon in development on the West Side, and AVA High Line was among the first to market. Standing on the rooftop amenity space and looking down on the slew of condo deals going up in the immediate area is a testament to the team at AvalonBay, who saw the potential of the site long before other developers. The property also embodies the elements of the AVA brand that make it a leading choice among younger renters – numerous sustainability features, social spaces and high-end finishes.
Afterward, we were hosted by the Related Companies. Geoffrey Butler reviewed the Hudson Yards, the largest development in the United States. The scale of the deal is rivaled only by its complexity. Related is developing 17 million square feet over a continuously-operating rail yard. The deal is unique in just about every aspect – from the entitlements, public space, public art, a new subway station and world-class tenants.
In the afternoon, we made an in-office visit to Tishman Speyer, where we were hosted by Carolina alums, Tolliver Williams and Steve McGuire. Tolliver and Steve provided an insider’s view of one of the preeminent real estate companies in the world. The vertical integration and international presence make Tishman Speyer a truly unique host.
For our final visit Thursday, we heard from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School alumni Matt Seals, Kan Mam and Chris Lackett. The conversation was wide-ranging, from the particulars of a case study to the personal experiences as students that eventually led them to their current roles at BlackRock.
Thursday evening, an alumni reception at Brother Jimmy’s brought students and alumni together in a relaxed, casual evening of food and drink. The professional networking of the early evening turned into late-night, animated discussions of Tar Heel athletics.
Friday kicked off in Vornado’s marketing center at 1290 Avenue of the Americas. Carolina alumnus and Vornado CFO, Steve Theriot, provided a 90-minute overview of Vornado that combined rich data, stunning visuals, first-hand anecdotes and industry insight that only could only be provided by the owner of the best real estate in the best markets. If there was any uncertainty about who owns the world’s best real estate in the world’s best markets, there was none after Steve’s presentation.
Afterwards, the students visited DRA Advisors. At DRA, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School alumnus Werner Kratovil provided an overview of the DRA platform, and walked students through a Charlotte, NC value-add deal. Werner also provided a frank, inside look at much sought-after path of work on the buy side.
At JPMorgan Real Assets, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School alumnus Preston Meyer provided an inside glimpse into real estate private equity investing for one of the world’s largest investors in real estate. In addition, he discussed managing relationships with developers, dynamics of the Washington DC real estate market and his own personal career path.
For the penultimate visit, students heard from the largest financial institution the average American consumer hasn’t heard of: Allianz. Eric Bergwall provided insight into the 118,000-employee Allianz, the real estate investing platform he leads and a macro overview of the real estate financing environment.
The trek ended, appropriately enough, in the premiere office building in New York – The GM Building – where UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School alum Shawn Menz provided an overview of GCM Grosvenor. Students learned about the fund of funds model, and how GCM Grosvenor provides its clients access to the large universe of small-scale [relatively speaking] private equity investors.
The trek was very busy and wide-ranging – making both in-office and property visits. The quality of visits is a testament to the strength of the UNC Kenan-Flagler real estate network in the NYC market, and the enthusiasm alumni have to teach, inform and mentor students.
By Andrew Eckman (MBA ’15)