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2020-2021: The Year in Review

The Center hosted the Spring Members’ Meeting as a virtual teleconference.

April 2021

The Spring 2021 Members’ Meeting began Thursday evening, April 30, with a conversation with Sal Khan, Sal Khan, Founder, Khan Academy. Khan spoke with Asuka Nakahara, Associate Director, Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at the Wharton School, about his experience developing Khan Academy and its mission to provide free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.

The first session of the day was A Conversation with Jon Gray, President & Chief Operating Officer, Blackstone. The conversation was moderated by Joe Gyourko, Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Director, Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at the Wharton School. The men then discussed the differences between the global financial crisis in 2008-09 and the pandemic. Gray talked about the fact that COVID-19 has “almost stopped economic activity. It certainly has slowed it, and we’re at a moment where the economic dam is about to burst.”

The second session of the day was A Conversation with Greg Davis, Managing Director & Chief Investment Officer, Vanguard, on Investment Markets. This session, moderated by  Maisy Wong, James T. Riady Associate Professor of Real Estate; Assistant Director, Grayken Program in International Real Estate, Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at the Wharton School, explored broader investment themes and the global investment markets. The conversation began with a discussion of the pace of recovery from the economic aspect of the pandemic. Davis said it is health-based — contingent on the vaccine recovery and roll-out. In the near term, there won’t be a substantial rise in interest rates, he predicted, and the global bond fund could return 2% for the next decade, in the longer term.

The third session, a panel on “New Economy Real Estate: Opportunities and Challenges” was moderated by Matthew J. Lustig, Chairman of Investment Banking, North America; Head of Real Estate & Lodging, Lazard; Chair, Advisory Board, Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at the Wharton School and featured panelists Will Germain, Senior Investment Officer, Research & Innovation, Ventas; Katherine Motlagh, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, CyrusOne; and Steve Vondran, Executive Vice President and President, U.S. Tower Division, American Tower Corporation. The group discussed developing property types including cell towers, life sciences, and data center.

The final session of the day was A Conversation with Sam Zell, Chairman, Equity Group Investments, and Barry Sternlicht, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Starwood Capital Group. The conversation was moderated by Joe Gyourko. The men covered a range of topics including the effects of the pandemic on the hospitality sector, the current political climate in America, and the investment market.


The Wharton School took first place at the University of Miami’s Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Case Competition.  Congratulations to this year’s student scholarship and award winners.