Guest speakers share insights into current trends and industry experience

During the spring semester, together with the Cornell Real Estate Club, CREF hosted four guest speakers to present to students. The open-session format of these events allows students to interact with members of the industry in a more casual setting. The students ask questions surrounding the guests’ areas of expertise as well as their career experiences in real estate. Student members of the Cornell Real Estate Club share their perspective on the speakers’ presentations:

David Israel '09, HotelAVE
March 27, 2017
By Charlotte Lefkovitz '19

Alex Popov

In partnership with the Center for Real Estate and Finance, the Cornell Real Estate club had the pleasure of hosting alumni David Israel for an open speaker session attended by undergraduate and graduate students interested in exploring the impact of technology on real estate investment valuation. David Israel graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the School of Hotel Administration in 2009, and has been a respected thought leader in the industry ever since- publishing many papers on relevant trends for Boutique, Lifestyle and Luxury hotels and building interfaces for PKF Hospitality Research. Mr. Israel joined HotelAVE upon graduation where he currently has an integral role growing the firm’s owned asset portfolio, establishing HotelAVE’s New York office, and developing financial investment models and benchmarking tools. He is currently the youngest Senior Vice President in the company’s history and oversees day-to-day operations to maximize the investment value of luxury, boutique and brand-affiliated properties. 

Discussion points during his open session revolved largely around the impact of advancements in technology on the future of the real estate sector. David emphasized the importance of real estate professionals becoming “technology” people due to vast supply growth causing the need for differentiation in order to stay competitive. He spoke about the growing shift of focus from hotels to office space development, and explained that office spaces are beginning to have the same impact in creating neighborhoods, and building out financial viability, that hotels have historically possessed. Another key take away from his discussion was the need for hotel companies to move towards greater connectivity and integration of products so that brands can deliver “what the guest actually wants before they even know they want it.” He posits that firms using technology to better serve clients and guests will minimize expenses and maximize loyalty to create sustainable, long-term relevancy in property’s community. He concluded by offering the advice that despite advancements in technology, the fundamental tenants of hospitality such as listening to the objectives of the guest or client, staying humble, and finding a way to relate to others remain crucial to correcting gaps in service.  

Alex Popov

Alex Popov '98, The Carlyle Group
April 17, 2017
By Jack Henry Kapp '17

The Cornell Real Estate Club and the Center for Real Estate and Finance welcomed Alex Popov to campus on April 17.

Always upbeat and positive, Alex Popov, Class of 1998, met with students who thoroughly enjoyed his presentation about his journey from The Hotel School into real estate lending. Meeting with Mr. Popov allowed students to understand the relationship between debt capital markets and real estate investment. Mr. Popov’s experiences have led him to work at many firms with a tremendous reputation, including leading the charge to form the joint venture between Highbridge Principal Strategies and The Related Companies and most recently at the Carlyle Group. Students asked Mr. Popov questions about the current state of the real estate debt market and how various events or factors, such as a change in interest rate policy, could impact lending long term.

John Arabia '91, Sunstone
April 4, 2017
By Scott Semaya '20

Scott Rechler

The Cornell Real Estate Club and the Center for Real Estate and Finance had the pleasure of hosting Hotel School alumnus, John Arabia, to discuss his job and the current state of the hotel industry. Arabia graduated with a B.S. from the School of Hotel Administration here at Cornell in 1991. His circumstances led him to pursue an M.B.A degree in Real Estate and Accounting immediately after at the University of Southern California. He completed his M.B.A in 1993. In 1997, John began working as a Managing Director for Green Street Advisors and in 2011 left to join Sunstone Hotel Properties. At Sunstone, John initially served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Chief Financial Officer until he was promoted to President, and later Chief Executive Officer. John also currently serves on the Board of Directors of EdR, one of the largest owners of collegiate housing in America.

John was kind enough to provide a quick summary of Sunstone and what he does there. Sunstone Hotel Investors is a publicly traded (NYSE:SHO) lodging real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns 27 hotels around the country, consisting of over 13,000 rooms. They are primarily asset managers that rely on third party managers like Marriott and Hyatt to run the hotels. Additionally, John discussed recent merger news involving REITs, the influence of technology on the hotel industry, implications of the new political administration on business and the hotel industry, and even gave advice to the students about graduate school and what to look for when applying for jobs. His primary advice: do what makes you happy. John mentioned that many employees at Sunstone do not have M.B.A.’s, as it is not a requirement for most jobs. “Do not get an M.B.A. just to have another piece of paper,” he mentioned. Many of the skills students learn at Cornell, specifically in the Hotel School, will be extremely applicable in the future.


Scott Rechler, P'19, RXR Realty
May 3, 2017
By Larry Robinson '18

Scott Rechler

In early May, the Cornell Real Estate Club and the Center for Real Estate and Finance welcomed Scott Rechler, Chairman and CEO of RXR Realty, to Statler Hall for a guest lecture in HADM 4230 as well as an open session for students. Mr. Rechler founded RXR in 2007, and has built the company to become one of largest commercial real estate owners, managers, and developers in the New York Tri-State area with an aggregate gross value of approximately $15.7 billion. Prior to RXR, Mr. Rechler was the Chairman and CEO of Reckson Associates Realty Corp, where he led the company’s IPO in 1995 as well as its $6 billion sale in 2007. He has also served as the Vice-Chairman of the New York City Port Authority under mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio; in that role, Mr. Rechler oversaw the Port Authority’s capital expenditure budget amongst other projects.

SHA students had the unique opportunity to learn about Mr. Rechler’s career path, RXR’s competitive advantage, and current development projects at Pier 57 and at Hempstead. Mr. Rechler also gave insight into how he views the current real estate landscape, and how various market trends are affecting RXR’s business. When asked about the future of New York City, Rechler labeled the city as a “magnet for talent”, and pointed to its relatively newfound economic diversification, specifically into the technology, healthcare and research sectors. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway for students, however, was Mr. Rechler’s career advice: to find a passion, work to create value for one’s community/society and seek out strong professional mentors.