Texas Wins National Real Estate Challenge, a First for Host McCombs School of Business

A team of graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin defeated 19 top business schools to win the National Real Estate Challenge Nov. 13 at the McCombs School of Business. In its seventh year, this was the first time the host school had won the prestigious competition.

The team from McCombs consisted of second-year Master of Business Administration students Michael Searls, Ryan Childs, Kevin White, Bryan Kaminski and Scott Humphreys. The team received a first-place prize of $6,000.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania finished second, with Yale University third and Vanderbilt University fourth, winning $4,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.

The annual competition is coordinated by The University of Texas at Austin's Real Estate Finance and Investment Center and the Graduate Real Estate Society.

"It was a great competition this year," said Jay Hartzell, a finance professor at the McCombs School and director of the Real Estate Finance and Investment Center. "It is exciting to see Texas win, but this group of students has won other competitions in the last year so we had high hopes for our team."

This year's case was provided by Goldman Sachs. The teams were asked to assess a complicated business plan focused on issues surrounding a competitive bidding process for the acquisition of a Central American-incorporated company with land holdings in a premier U.S. urban location overlooking a major park. The business plan included the purchase of the company, demolition of the hotel that exists on the large parcel and the construction of a two-tower luxury condominium development.

Hartzell said the competition relies on cooperation with business leaders working in the real estate field.

"Todd Williams of Goldman Sachs put together a very difficult case," Hartzell said. "And Mark Gibson of HFF was instrumental in bringing in the judges--real estate experts from all around the country."

The competition was also sponsored by ING Clarion, Inland Western Retail Real Estate Trust, the Lionstone Group and Weingarten Realty.

The other universities participating in the competition included California at Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Virginia, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Michigan, MIT, New York, Stanford, UCLA, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Southern California and Wisconsin.