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Making the grade in real estate

How do you know when you’ve made your mark in New York City real estate?

When you punctuate the Manhattan skyline, said Lehigh trustee Tara Stacom ’80, with your own iconic skyscraper.

That accomplishment, Stacom said at the Stacom Family ire@l Speaker Series on Oct. 8, is what the world can soon expect from Marc Holliday ’88.

Holliday, the CEO of SL Green Realty Corp. in New York, has taken his company from $300 million to $20 billion in assets.

After he was introduced by Stacom, Holliday addressed a crowd of more than 650 students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends at Baker Hall.

Against a lively backdrop of charts, videos and even the theme song from the movie Love Story, Holliday told how he and his company creatively secured a 25-year lease for CitiGroup’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan after the financial giant almost backed away from the building.

He also outlined the development of a prize project that will etch his company’s name on the Big Apple’s skyline: One Vanderbilt, a new Midtown East property expected to gain approval in May 2015. The 65-story skyscraper, which offers a modern complement to the adjacent Grand Central Station, will stand as Holliday’s contribution to the skyline—and to the real estate industry.

“I speak at colleges several times every year, and nothing is more exciting than coming home to Lehigh,” Holliday said. “I see in these students the kind of ambition and excitement for what lies ahead, and it sets this place apart for me.”

Holliday met with students from the Integrated Real Estate at Lehigh Program (ire@l) over lunch, fielding complex questions on topics ranging from capital gains taxes, checks and balances with a board of directors, and how to decide when to reinvest or share profits with stockholders.

Devin Deraney ’16 asked Holliday about his Lehigh experience.

“Lehigh was a great, great environment for me because it gave me a framework to really hone my financial skills,” said Holliday. “At the time, the college had a fairly conservative economic bent, and that framed my thinking and taught me how to invest and judge markets. The economics classes were as important to me as the finance classes, and really got me thinking in the right direction.”

Deraney would like to follow in Holliday’s footsteps. “When someone asks me what I want to do after I graduate,” he said, “the answer is real estate. Mr. Holliday does what I want to do—commercial real estate in New York City—and this is a chance to learn what he does every day.”

Mayra Juarez ’15, a New York WX Women Executives in Real Estate Scholar and Fioretti Family Scholar, also hopes to go into real estate development in New York.

“As a student,” she said, “this event helps you see what you could be and how Lehigh can serve you. It helps you see that your goals are obtainable—that you can be a CEO and reach that pinnacle.”

The Stacom Family ire@l Speaker Series and other ire@l programs, said Juarez, have given her the chance to interact with real estate leaders.

“Because of this program, I am already connected to people like Marc Holliday and Tara Stacom, as well as newly graduated Lehigh alumni. That is so important, because once you’re known in this field, people will come to you with opportunities.”

Steve Thode, director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies and director of the ire@l Program, began working with Holliday shortly after Holliday enrolled at Lehigh in 1985.

“Marc was a terrific student who dedicated enormous amounts of his time at Lehigh to learning everything he could about real estate finance, capital markets and the future of New York City real estate.  He tirelessly sought out anyone and everyone—across the country and across the world—for advice and guidance. He is a wonderful role model for the next generation of real estate leaders currently enrolled in the ire@l program.”

While ire@l wasn’t yet in place when Holliday attended Lehigh, he and his family are committed to its success. In March 2014, Marc and his wife, Sheree, provided a $5 million gift to ire@l through The Holliday Foundation.
 
The commitment established the Marc Holliday '88 Professor of Real Estate Finance, and also included a $1.5 million matching gift challenge to support the new Marc Holliday ire@l Operating Fund. The challenge offers "two dollars for one," and has the potential to bring another $3 million from alumni and friends to ire@l.

“I think for any student who wants to specialize in real estate, from finance to planning to development to architecture, having a program like ire@l sets them apart,” said Holliday. “I see in these students a level of preparation that is far and away above that of other students in real estate.”

The ire@l program is open to students from all three undergraduate colleges at Lehigh.

Holliday was also a keynote speaker at Lehigh in 2007 and 2012. Other past Stacom Series speakers have included Robert Lapidus ’13P, president and CIO of L&L Holding Company, World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein, and Tara ’80 and Darcy Stacom ’81.

Story by Janet Norwood
 

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Holliday was introduced by Tara Stacom ’80, executive vice chairman of Cushman and Wakefield.

During his visit to Lehigh, Holliday (center, in blue coat) met with students from the Integrated Real Estate at Lehigh (ire@l) Program.

The Stacom Family Speaker Series

The Stacom Family Speaker Series was created in 2009 by Tara Stacom in order to connect Lehigh students and alumni with notable figures in the field of real estate. Stacom, executive vice chairman of Cushman and Wakefield and a member of its Global Advisory Board, has completed some of the industry’s largest and most complex leasing, sales and corporate finance transactions.

Click here to learn more about Integrated Real Estate at Lehigh (ire@l).

Click here to learn more about the Holliday Foundation to Advance Lehigh’s Real Estate Program.

To learn more about Marc Holliday’s matching gift challenge, please contact Jim Mann, CBE director of development, at (610) 758-5689 or jam508@lehigh.edu.

Story by Janet Norwood