In late November, students from the top Real Estate and MBA programs in the country gathered at the University of Texas at Austin for the 13th Annual National Real Estate Challenge. Hosted by the McCombs School of Business, the competition puts teams head to head in a case-based real estate challenge presented in front of accredited real estate professionals from many of the top real estate firms in the nation. Competing schools this year included Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, MIT, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Rice, Texas, UCLA, UNC, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Yale. From among this impressive lineup, the Cornell team beat out 18 other schools to bring home a second place finish. This is the highest ranking Cornell has ever achieved in its years of competing at UT-Austin.
This year’s winning team was led by co-captains Annamaria Lookman (Baker ’16) and Will Woodworth (Johnson MBA’16). Team members included Ryan Chao (Baker ’16), Ben Trussell (Baker/MRP ’16), Jason Henderson (Baker ’16) and Matt Farrell (Baker/MBA ’18). Faculty advisors who coached the team throughout the semester leading up to the competition included Michael Tomlan, Jon Minikes and Brad Olson. Additionally, John Strosser (Baker/MBA ’17) served as a team understudy and will partner with Matt Farrell as co-captain for next year’s competition.
The case for this year’s competition was prepared by investment managers at Invesco and involved the re-positioning of two under-performing office assets. Cornell’s response to the case centered on the potential of creative office conversions as a means of achieving opportunistic returns in the latter stages of the real estate cycle. The team received the case a week prior to the competition and had 72 hours to prepare and submit a response, including a finished slide deck. Once in Texas, they presented their case to a small panel of judges in a closed room before being chosen as one of four competition finalists. A second presentation occurred in front of the full panel of competition judges and an audience of students and other real estate professionals. Many of the judges were provided by firms sponsoring the competition, including Invesco, Lionstone Investments, Alliance Residential, Blackstone, Greystar, and Prudential Real Estate Investors. Competition finalists included Wisconsin (4th), Chicago (3rd), Cornell (2nd), and Texas (1st).
With a fourth place finish in 2013, a third place finish in 2014, and now a second place finish in 2015, Cornell has a proud history of excelling in this competition. This is a legacy that students in the Baker Program and the Johnson School expect to continue—and improve upon—in the coming years.