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Board Member Profiles

Dick ZimanInterview with Dick Ziman, Founding Chairman, Rexford Industrial Realty
By Bryan Graves, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

What is your background in real estate?
After receiving my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Southern California in 1964 and 1967, I joined the law firm of Loeb & Loeb where, as a partner from 1971 to 1980, I specialized in all aspects of real estate. During the 1980's, I used this solid foundation I had gained in real estate to form Pacific Financial Group (PFG), where I was the Managing General Partner. Focusing on office properties, PFG grew to be one of the largest private real estate investment firms in Los Angeles. By early 1991, we had sold every PFG property before the economic downturn of the 1990's. In 1991, as founding Chairman and CEO, I established Arden Realty, Inc., which completed its initial public offering and NYSE listing in October of 1996 and by 2003 became the largest office landlord in Southern California. In 2006, Arden was acquired by General Electric in a $5 billion transaction involving our entire portfolio of almost 20 million square feet and more than 225 office buildings and represents the largest real estate transaction in the history of Southern California.

Nowadays, I am the Founding Chairman of AVP Advisors, LLC, the exclusive advisor to American Value Partners, which is a $500 million real estate fund of funds covering all sectors of real estate investment throughout the United States, and also Founding Chairman of Rexford Industrial, LLC, which owns manages and operates almost 7 million square feet of industrial space located exclusively in Southern California.

How did you first become involved in the Ziman Center and what was your motivation to get involved?
In the late 1980's and 1990's, I was a guest lecturer at UCLA Anderson, teaching graduate students in various matters of real estate. In 2001, I was approached by John Long, President and CEO of Highridge Partners, Inc. and Gene Rosenfeld to fund and establish the Ziman Center for Real Estate.

It was time to create a dynamic real estate center at UCLA. With the stature of the university, I felt that the Ziman Center could become a focal point for private enterprise, academia and entrepreneurs working together and in association with the political establishment, keeping in mind that the impact of real estate touches every one of us in a certain way, and extends far beyond bricks-and-mortar and into almost every economic, political and social issue.

How would you like to see the Center grow in the next ten years?
Over the next ten years, I expect that the Ziman Center will take a more public role, continuing to host conferences on critical social issues, such as housing, transportation, and health care. Furthermore, I believe that the Center can bring together business, community and political leaders to create a sea change in these and other areas.

What are you currently most passionate about?
These days, my primary focus is to make life better for as many people as possible, and to prepare students and young professionals to be the leaders of the future. I devote a great deal of time to charitable endeavors, which are very important to me. I have held many leadership positions in the cultural, educational and social service organizations in Southern California. From 1989 to 1995, I served as volunteer Chairman of the Board of Directors of the City of Hope National Medical Center and its Beckman Research Institute (COH), a world renowned, multi-faceted clinical hospital and basic research center for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, immunology and other catastrophic diseases. I am also the founding Chairman of the Los Angeles Real Estate and Construction Industries Alliance, and I have received an honorary doctorate from COH. Among many other things, I am also a member of the International Board of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a member of the Board of Overseers of its Rothberg International School from which I also received an honorary doctorate.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and traveling. I have four children: Todd, Yael, Michele, Ashley and 2 grandchildren.

Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

  • Pay your dues-"No pain, no gain"
  • Always trust your gut
  • Greed is good-Making money is a measure of success, but make sure you do something good with it
  • Build a good, solid reputation-so people respect who you are and what you do
  • The only thing that's certain in life is "change"

Interview with John Long, President & CEO, Highridge Partners, Inc. John Long
By Blake Thomas, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

How did you first become involved with the Ziman Center?
In the late 1990's I was traveling the country, lecturing and participating at industry conferences when I learned about the research and resources provided by UC Berkeley's Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics and the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC. As a Los Angeles resident and UCLA graduate, I saw a gap that these two well respected centers did not focus on; an interactive real estate center which would be relevant to the community and fulfill a vital need to tomorrow's leaders. I began to formulate a model for what a center like this could become. My vision was to establish an interdisciplinary real estate center that combined research, finance, design, and public policy that would serve industry, the academic community and the UCLA campus at large. My overall goal was to also ensure that this new center would be a true value-add to the UCLA students and alumni network.

What was your motivation to get involved?
I was and continue to be an active participant in the UCLA community, as a member of the UCLA Anderson Board of Visitors and the UCLA Foundation Board of Governors. Through my participation in these organizations serving the UCLA community, I was able to form lasting relationships with other successful business men and women who shared my desire to give back to the academic community. I enjoy creating and building different business and social ventures because I also gain a lot of satisfaction from social success.

What is your background in real estate?
I received my BA in Economics from UCLA and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In 1978, I founded Highridge Partners and grew it into a leading real estate investment firm. Over the years, we have bought, developed and sold nearly $10 billion of real estate across the housing, office, retail and hospitality sectors. Most recently, in 2010, we expanded into the affordable housing marketplace by establishing Highridge Costa Housing Partners, a business with 26,000 marketplace apartments across 34 states.

How would you like to see the Center grow in the next 10 years?
I'm happy to say that the Ziman Center continues my original vision of advancing thought leadership in the field of real estate by generating influential research, educating the next generation of leaders and providing meaningful forums for industry professionals and policymakers. Today, it is relevant, vital, and impactful in serving its multiple stakeholders.

Real Estate is being redefined. We are coming out of the latest financial collapse. Since one of UCLA's core strengths is finance and research, we strive to help the real estate marketplace through research on economics, finance and financial products.

I'm less concerned by what we specifically do, or what we specifically study, or where we specifically go than I am about the approach we must maintain in order for the Ziman Center to grow in its relevance to our industry and community. The center must continue to involve students, professors and other parts of the campus at large - today, tomorrow or even 100 years from now. Students must not only be heard, but they need to be involved, engaged and participants as they will be our future business leaders and tomorrow's driving forces to make a difference.

Bill PetakInterview with Bill Petak, CEO, CorAmerica Capital, LLC
By Ryan Holbrook, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

How did you first become involved in the Ziman Center?
Dick Ziman became my mentor right out of college, and when Dick asked me to become involved, it wasn't even a question with all that Dick has provided me over the years.

What was your motivation to get involved?
Beyond the social benefits of being involved, I want to establish UCLA apart from its rivals as going beyond just development and focusing on the bigger picture of real estate as a legitimate asset class to institutional investors through securitization, equity, hybrid investments, etc. I realize that many of the graduating students of Anderson will be my colleagues in 5 years time, and I want to make sure that they are prepared and knowledgeable.

What's your background in real estate?
Dick Ziman as a mentor, was referenced to Dick by George Smith.

How would you like to see the Center grow in the next 10 years?
I would like to see a closer relationship forged between the ZC and AREA, particularly when it comes to fundraising. I want to expand the presence of UCLA as a premier real estate center, by delivering prepared students while also becoming even stronger in research and academics. I want UCLA to be recognized nationally as a premier real estate center, which by the way would help fundraising efforts beyond the greater LA area.

How has your experience been as Chairman of the ZC Board?
Great.  It keeps me in front of great people. And Stuart Gabriel has been an extremely fantastic addition and is a source of motivation to me.  Also, Tim Kawahara is great in his tireless energy and intelligence.

Jordan KaplanInterview with Jordan Kaplan, President & CEO, Douglas Emmett, Inc.
By Robert Wilshusen, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

How did you get involved with the Ziman Center?
The Ziman Center was really the brainchild of John Long. John and Gene Rosenfeld I assume had the idea to get Dick Ziman to make a grant towards the school. These three men wanted to attract someone who had gone to business school at UCLA, so they came to me. I helped kick it off by fundraising and finding more board members.

What was your motivation to get into the Ziman Center?
I love UCLA. My parents and my sister were faculty members at UCLA. Also, I am an alumnus of the Anderson School. Plus, I worked in real estate and my friends were the ones starting up then Ziman Center.

What is your background in real estate?
My first job was working with Dan Emmett as an accountant, but I knew that I wanted to get into real estate. In 1991, I was one of the co-founders of Douglas Emmett Realty Advisors, which grew into a large manager of institutional funds. The company went public in 2006.

What would you like the Ziman Center to do in the future?
I want the Ziman Center to be recognized as the gold standard for academic real estate research and teaching in the United States. This will produce the best real estate students in the country. Our graduating students will become the real estate executives of the future.

Gadi KaufmannInterview with Gadi Kaufmann, Managing Director & CEO, RCLCO

By Meghan McCoy, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

How did you first become involved in the Ziman Center?
I am a Bruin from way back (BA, Econ., 1979), and am a huge supporter of the university and its mission as a public institution. In fact, my wife has four degrees from UCLA, including a PhD in Political Science. And, my younger daughter Amy is now a Junior at UCLA. We bleed blue and gold at the Kaufmann household. For years I felt that UCLA should have a center of excellence for the real estate industry, and the formation of the Ziman Center provided the perfect vehicle for me to combine my interest in advancing the state of the art in thought leadership in real estate with my passion for UCLA. So it was an easy decision for me to accept the invitation to join the Ziman Center's Founding Board, and to become engaged in advancing the Center's education and outreach programs.

What was your motivation to get involved?
I firmly believe in the Ziman Center's mission to "advance thought leadership in the field of real estate by generating influential research, educating the next generation of leaders and providing meaningful forums for industry professionals and policy makers." To advance that mission I accepted an appointment as chair of the Ziman Center's Education and Outreach committee, through which we are providing meaningful forums for industry professionals and policy makers. Each year we organize numerous events and gatherings to facilitate education, idea exchange and dialogue on a wide range of real estate related topics.

How did you get started in real estate?
On a bit of a whim, I joined RCLCO in 1979 as a research analyst. I thought I would spend a year or two at the firm, and then go back to school and continue my education. Little did I know that I would fall deeply in love with real estate, and how great a charge I would get from consulting in the industry. Numerous opportunities presented themselves over the years to change careers and to switch industries, but I just couldn't do it - I love real estate too much to consider any alternatives. Thirty three years later, I still find each project, each transaction, each client to be different and exciting. The variety, the intellectual challenge, and the incredible people I have met and made friends with make it all super exciting to get up every morning and go to work. I am a lucky guy to have found an industry I love and a career I cherish. Sometimes I almost have to pinch myself to realize it is true - I get paid to do what I have fun doing.

What advice do you have for MBAs pursuing a career in real estate?
Do what you love to do, and it will not feel like work. I would recommend starting your career in real estate in a consulting firm. You will see a wide range of deals and companies, and will be able to be exposed to dozens of assignments of all types over the course of the first year or two at a firm like RCLCO. You will learn a lot, and you will develop a tremendous network. After a couple of years at a consulting firm, it will be much easier to figure out what segment of the industry really interests you, and what role you wish to play - principal, consultant, capital markets, etc. The rest will follow easily from there.  

How would you like to see the Ziman Center grow in the next ten years?
I believe that the Ziman Center can become THE "go-to" institution for thought leadership for the real estate industry worldwide, following a simple road map:

  • By attracting the best academic minds to teach and publish at UCLA, other academics, students and practitioners will flock to UCLA to learn from and to work with the Center's esteemed faculty.
  • By selecting the best candidates and teaching a superior curriculum, the Ziman Center will produce graduates destined for leadership in the industry's best organizations worldwide.
  • The convening of these and other leaders and academics for cutting edge dialogues and collaborative efforts at the intersection of academics, policy, and practice to advance the state-of-the-art in the industry and perpetuate the development of the Center's intellectual capital and brand equity.

The above will combine to further enhance the Ziman Center's ability to attract the best and the brightest to attend, participate and contribute to the Center's activities, body of work, outreach efforts, and last but not least, its endowment.

D. Michael Van KonynenburgInterview with D. Michael Van Konynenburg, President, Eastdil Secured
By Michael Johnson, UCLA Anderson Class of 2012

How did you first become involved with the Ziman Center?
I have been long time friends with Dick Ziman, John Long, Victor Coleman, and Jordan Kaplan. They approached me with their vision for the Ziman Center and asked for my support. I was intrigued by the opportunity on both a professional and personal level.

What was your motivation to get involved?
We are consistently hiring real estate professionals in Los Angeles and this was a great way to improve the caliber of graduates in the area. I liked the focus of the Ziman Center on commercial real estate rather than single family homes. Also, I was excited about the school's connection to Asia given its location on the Pacific Rim and numerous other programs. Asia is growing in economic power and importance so I liked the connection that UCLA and Anderson had to this region. Finally, as a UC graduate (UC Davis) I wanted to see the system continue to grow and improve.

What's your background in commercial real estate?
I worked at Drexel Burnham Lambert after school where we formed a team focused on the first CMBS issuance. Specifically I worked on the trading desk, trading both mortgages and securities, so I have always been closer to the securities side of the business rather than property ownership. In 1990 I started Secured Capital with three other co-founders and we focused on commercial real estate debt and equity markets. We did a lot of work as a result of the RTC and eventually grew into a full service real estate investment banking platform. In 2005 we merged with Eastdil to form Eastdil Secured."

How would you like to see the Ziman Center grow in the next 10 years?
I would like to see it continue to develop its national and international reputation for producing well rounded real estate graduates. It is important for graduates to have technical skills but also the people and soft skills necessary for a successful career in real estate. Finally, I would like to see the Ziman Center continue to produce first tier real estate research and graduates.

Howard LevineInterview with Howard J. Levine, Founder, ARCS Commercial Mortgage Co., LLC
By Alex J. Valente, UCLA Anderson FEMBA Class of 2013

Alex Valente (FEMBA '13) sat down with Howard Levine (MBA '67 and Ziman Center Founding Board Member) on a rainy morning at Howard's beautiful house in Westlake Village.  Howard is happily married to Irene Levine and they have three children (Jay, David and Marci).  Howard was the President and CEO of ARCS Commercial Mortgage Co, which was the #1 lender of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac multi-family loans for 10 years.  In 2011, Howard was recognized by UCLA Anderson School as one of the 100 most inspirational Anderson Graduates since the school's founding 75 years ago.

What have you been up to since you retired four years ago?
My current activities have been providing me with a lot of gratification.  Mainly, I have refocused my attention to mentoring, charitable giving and serving on non-profit boards which are focused on affordable housing, medical research and Jewish sustainability.  Within these broad subjects, there is a growing need for leadership and resources.  I have opted to take a major role in supporting these three needs. Currently, the most challenging obstacle this country is facing is constructing and managing an increased amount of affordable housing.  I am spending a lot of my efforts in this arena as a Board Member of Mercy Housing. Especially in this economy, there is a growing demand for  shelter for the lowest income group of our population that delivers not only affordable shelter for this segment of our communities, but also provides vocational, health support and other life necessities to help these people turn into self-sufficient productive individuals. Another one of my special interests is ethics in today's competitive environment.  I recently funded a five year annual lecture in ethical behavior in today's competitive environment.

How did you first become involved in the Ziman Center? What was your motivation?
As an alumnus of the UCLA Graduate School of Management, I have always been attuned to the real estate curriculum at UCLA. I sadly watched the real estate program deteriorate from the time I graduated in 1967.  I had known Stuart Gabriel from my days on the Advisory Board of the USC real estate program.  When Stuart made the switch to UCLA, it was only natural that I join him during the formative period.  I couldn't be more pleased with the growth of the program and the recognition it is receiving throughout the U.S. and in fact, globally.  On various occasions, I was invited to lecture to the students which gave me increased satisfaction and understanding of the depth of the program and the intellect of the students.  I also saw this as an opportunity to recruit the best of the graduates for our company, ARCS Commercial Mortgage Co., LLC.

What are Ziman's greatest accomplishments?
I believe that the Ziman Center is presently recognized as one of the best graduate real estate programs in the country.  It adds prestige and financial resources to the University at large and provides a group of bright dedicated students the education that is essential to become future leaders in this field.  Hopefully, with the added skills learned at UCLA, real estate and financial institutions, executives will be better equipped to manage the cycles of this industry.

How would you like the Center to grow in the next 10 years?
I would like the Center to add additional distinguished professorial resources so that the University can handle increased enrollment and also issue papers that reflect the most up to date theories on fiscal policy.  The world is becoming a lot more global and the Ziman Center should move in step with this trend and become world renown.

Any parting words of wisdom?
UCLA has a bright future in being recognized as the #1 Real Estate Finance School in the country.  We have the professors in place and the mind-set to add additional resources that are internationally recognized as leaders in industry.  Being located in the Los Angeles area, the school has access to many educated and talented individuals to support the program in the future.  We're gifted here in Los Angeles that there are so many bright people, a key element in becoming a leader.

Tod SpiekerInterview with Tod Spieker, President, Spieker Companies, Inc.
By Rob Banovac, UCLA Anderson Class of 2013

How did you first become involved in the Ziman Center?
I was contacted by Prof. Stuart Gabriel. He asked me to become involved, and I have always enjoyed giving back to UCLA.

What was your motivation to get involved?
I thought it was important to have real estate classes at UCLA and to give students an opportunity to learn about real estate. When I attended UCLA, real estate wasn't offered has a subject. I had to take my first real estate course at the Santa Monica Community College. I then went out and studied for the real estate sales license on my own time.

Once you got your license, how did you get your start in real estate?
I started working for Lincoln Properties, based out of Dallas, TX. I found I liked the industry and that I learned a lot being out working. But all of this might not have happened if I hadn't pursued real estate on my own. I think that's the importance of the Ziman Center; to give students an opportunity to pursue a career in real estate if they so desire.

For young people looking to start a career in real estate, what advice do you have?
You have to get as much practical knowledge as you can and find your passion. It is important to go work for somebody in the industry, find out what it's really like out there, and get your hands dirty at an early age. When I started working part time, I honestly should have paid the people I was working for. There's so much you can't learn in the classroom, and I was very appreciative of the opportunities given to me.

How would you like to see the Center grow in the next 10 years?
You know, there are so many aspects of the real estate business, and dealing with the complexity of the current market as it evolves will be the biggest challenge for the Ziman Center.

I know that you've hosted UCLA students at your properties. Did you find that experience rewarding?
It was great; I really enjoyed hosting UCLA students. I thought they asked very intelligent questions and seemed knowledgeable about the industry. I hope the visit provided a general benefit to them.