As part of the Stacom Family Speaker Series, John Cobb '93 gave ire@l students insights into his success. From left, Stephen Thode, director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies and the ire@l program; Tara Stacom ’80, a member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and executive vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, and Cobb.
Think before you act. Nurture relationships with those around you. Do everything you can to get the job done right.
These tenets of patience, teamwork and precision, John Cobb ‘93 told a crowd of more than 100 students, are what have brought him success in his real estate career.
Currently chief investment officer for Ventas, a leading real estate investment trust, Cobb spoke about his most recent $1.5 billion acquisition of the life science and medical real estate assets of Wexford Science & Technology LLC Technologies. The presentation was part of the Stacom Family Speaker Series, held Oct. 19 in the Rauch Business Center.
Cobb gave the students an overview of his company and its culture before walking through the details of the recent $1.5 billion deal, sharing his tips and tricks along the way. He emphasized that patience was key, as he shared the ups and downs of the bargaining process, which started and stalled more than once along the way. Cobb and his team put in long hours, sometimes pushing the sellers and sometimes stepping back, to create the right conditions for the partnership. Despite competition from other potential buyers, Cobb managed to seal the deal and even close a month earlier than expected.
He said even his own team wasn’t convinced the deal could be executed early. However, they talked through and overcame every obstacle—an effort that saved on costs for the company. Cobb said closing the deal early showed the company was able to deliver on ambitious expectations.
“If you put your mind to something, you can do it,” he said. “It’s a mindset. You have to talk through it, work hard and keep on pushing. That’s our culture.”
Cobb warned students to think before they act—even before hitting “send” on an email. “Gaining patience—and it has taken me a long time to understand this, because I’m an impatient person—has a lot to do with my success,” he revealed.
Teamwork is also important to Cobb. “This doesn’t just mean your own team,” he reminded. “It’s your seller’s team, your lawyer’s team, your tax team. You need to know how to work with and listen to other people. We’re good at it, but we’re always working to get better.”
Finally, he said, precision is essential. “Our motto is that you have to be 100 percent right all the time, and we strive to do that, whether we’re talking about spelling within an email, or how you work, how you operate or how you are treating people. We want to be perfect, and that’s a hard thing to do.”
Cobb said he was eager to share what he has learned with students. His own Lehigh experience as a finance major, he said, taught him how to work hard and solve problems.
“I’ve come to appreciate what Lehigh did for me and my career,” he said. “When I came to Lehigh, I had to really learn how to study and learn a different way. Now, when I tackle a problem for work or otherwise, I have the ability to figure it out. Lehigh helped give me that skill.”
This was Cobb’s third time sharing his expertise with students in Lehigh’s ire@l program, an interdisciplinary effort that offers students a curriculum that includes practicums, internships, and field laboratories. Through the program, which is guided with the help of accomplished real estate professionals, students prepare to become the next generation of industry leaders.
Caio Simao ’17, a finance major pursuing a career in commercial real estate, was one of many students who had a chance to interact with Cobb during the course of his visit.
“Our group talked with Mr. Cobb about his role of manager, which he’s had since he was 30, and that translated really well into the presentation. We were able to see how he applied the techniques he learned through the years to merge and acquire properties.”
A senior, Simao takes every opportunity to meet with professionals on campus. “The speakers who come to these events are very highly qualified, and it’s an awesome experience to learn from them.”
Tara Stacom ’80, a member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and executive vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, was instrumental in the development of ire@l and created the Stacom Family Speaker Series in 2009 to connect ire@l students and alumni with notable figures in the field. Stacom earned her undergraduate degree in finance at Lehigh. She is responsible for some of the industry’s largest and most complex leasing, sales and corporate finance transactions.
She commented that she was exceptionally pleased that Cobb shared his time. “One of the best parts of the ire@l program is bringing professionals from the workforce to campus to let these students experience more than just classroom lectures. They can hear from those who have made great success in the industry firsthand, which will help to better prepare them for jobs in the future.”
Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business and Economics, expressed her gratitude to both Cobb and Stacom.
“I’m thrilled to be welcoming our speaker today,” she said. “The generosity of the Stacom family to support this type of speaker series is crucial to exposing our students to the leaders of industry.”
Story by Janet Norwood '16G