September 29th through October 1st was what Chad Hagle, President of Stanford Professionals In Real Estate (SPIRE) referred to as “the greatest real estate weekend in the history of Stanford University.” The weekend included the first annual Stanford Real Estate Conference hosted by SPIRE, an upstart Stanford alumni organization founded in 2009 and now with over 1200 alumni members from the real estate industry, and Stanford Management Company, the division of the University that operates the endowment of the University, including its vast real estate holdings.
The conference was attended by 60-plus executives from the real estate community with Stanford affiliations and included networking sessions, entertainment and unique and valuable programming covering a full gambit of topics inside and outside of the real estate industry. Just a few of the highlights included a talk by Kevin Bleyer, Emmy award- winning writer for the Daily Show with John Stewart, a presentation on the changing geopolitical climate by Larry Diamond, Hoover Institute Fellow, and a panel to discuss the impact of emerging social media technology upon the world of real estate.
“The SREC was spectacular,” says Fred Allen, senior partner at Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory and Natsis LLP in Los Angeles, and a Charter Member of the Stanford Real Estate Council. “It was an extremely helpful and candid discussion of real estate and real estate finance issues.”
Adds Hamid R. Moghadam, Chairman & Co-CEO of Prologis Inc., “I thought the morning sessions were good. Larry Diamond was fabulous.”
Attendance was limited to about 75 to foster the less formal interactions that led to deeper discussions.
Because attendance was strictly limited and comments were off the record, participants were able to gain a deeper insight. Veterans of other real estate industry conferences say this was the best one they have ever attended.
"The sessions were great. They were interesting and up to date. In my view the things that were unique that I haven't found in other conferences were the level of interactivity within the group and among the group and the panelists, and also the level of openness that I think results from being a manageable size and having a common bond in having a relationship with Stanford," says Mark Zytko, Co-Founder of Mesa West Capital. This wasn't a sponsored mega conference -- it was a select group of people who were there because they wanted to be there and participate," he says.
"I really enjoyed the conference," says Ron Zeff, CEO of Carmel Partners Inc. "It was great catching up with old friends and colleagues. I also thought the non-real estate presentations from John Powers are the status of the endowment and Larry Diamond's remarks were especially interesting. Look forward to attending next year."
The weekend was capped off by the Inaugural Stanford Real Estate Hall of Fame Induction Banquet to honor two of California’s most influential real estate developers -- William Wilson III, founder of Wilson Meany Sullivan, William Wilson & Associates and Webcor Builders, and Don Koll, founder of The Koll Company. The Stanford Real Estate Hall of Fame was founded by SPIRE and Stanford Management Company to honor Stanford alumni who are past industry luminaries and pioneers, as well as living legends still shaping the real estate industry and our world.
“It was a great idea to have the Hall of Fame and to honor Stanford icons like Don Koll and Bill Wilson,” says Allen. “A good time was had by all.”
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Koll, who was represented by his wife Kathi, were each presented with engraved iPads, which were programmed with a tribute video in which their closest friends and colleagues honored the two industry icons.
All-in-all, the conference and the entire weekend lived up to its billing and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
"Quite simply, the best conference of any kind that I have attended," says O'Malley Miller, Partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.