Editor’s Note: The following is a reflection by Justin Cooper ’09. ’10 MSF
Growing up in a home where we discussed current events and the markets every night at the dinner table, I was exposed to the world of finance at a young age. I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the field of finance, but it was not until I was influenced by some very special professors at Syracuse, along with a couple of internships, that I decided to focus specifically on the debt side of commercial real estate. While at Whitman, I took advantage of the real estate curriculum before it was offered as a major. I particularly enjoyed a class with Eric Alderman, an adjunct professor at the time, who was spearheading a large brownfield development project in Bayonne, N.J. The class offered real world experience, as he took his students through the entire pre-development and development underwriting and analysis of a big box retail construction project. I was also fortunate to study with Milena Petrova and Yildiray Yildirim, who taught me the core valuation fundamentals of real estate finance and analytics. It was then that I decided to pursue a real estate internship and head in a different direction from my two prior internships at a large diversified investment management firm.
I had my first break in commercial real estate when I was hired as a summer analyst at Lubert Adler in 2008. At Lubert Adler, I worked with senior analysts and portfolio managers and was handed several acquisition and redevelopment opportunities to underwrite. I also performed detailed due diligence, including on-site research of large commercial real estate assets. I developed a strong sense that this was what I would do with my life through intense firsthand experience that summer. Because I graduated from college in 2009, however, jobs were scarce in the real estate sector, so I decided to go back to Whitman for one more year for the M.S. in Finance program. I was able to design my own curriculum and focus on taking the specialized finance and real estate courses that would foster my career pursuits the most. I also had the opportunity to take an international real estate course in Dubai, led by Professor Yildirim, where we worked as consultants on a project for GE Capital in the Middle East.
As the first semester of graduate school came to an end and it was time to think about next steps, Tom Foley was kind enough to introduce me to several alumni in the field. One of Tom’s introductions was to Jonathan Daniel, founder of Silo Financial, a boutique private equity real estate finance company (now Knighthead Funding) in Stamford, Conn. Jonathan and I met and it was a fit from the start. He offered me a starting position as an analyst in their direct lending program. After nearly three years at Silo, I moved to Stabilis Capital Management, LP, a distressed debt real estate hedge fund in New York City, to work as an asset manager, responsible for a portfolio of commercial real estate debt investments across the U.S. When Stabilis launched its fourth fund, I was offered the opportunity to capitalize on my experience in the direct lending space and became head of originations for a bridge lending strategy, which is what I am currently doing.
A Philadelphian by birth, I live in Manhattan with my wife, Melanie, and our young daughter, Charlotte.
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