Long-Term Bet

From the Fall 2009 edition of Vanderbilt Business


Twenty years can create some distance between a university and one of its graduates. Not so for Kevin Kaseff. A member of the Class of 1989, Kaseff fondly recalls both the friends he made at Owen and his academic experience. “I loved the school and the experience,” he says. “I’ve maintained those friendships the past 20 years.”

Even though Owen offered no real estate courses at the time, Kaseff credits the school with putting him on the fast track in his real estate career. Today he is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Titan Real Estate Investment Group Inc., a national commercial real estate investment firm with offices both in Southern California and on the East Coast.

“My career success can be directly attributed to my time at Owen,” he says. “I chose to pursue an MBA because I had reached a point where I felt I was stagnating in my career, and I wanted new challenges.”

The contrast between his studies at Owen and his work in Los Angeles—one of the nation’s most dynamic real estate markets—provides the businessman with an interesting perspective.

“My view of the financial world was a 45-degree angle, and I wanted the full 180-degree perspective,” he recalls of his academic career. “And clearly, Owen did that for me. Investing in real estate is about making long-term bets. These are not liquid assets, so having an MBA and knowledge of the financial markets, operations, accounting and human resources is critical.”

A native of the San Francisco area, Kaseff says he is moderately familiar with the Middle Tennessee commercial real estate market. “We recently sold several apartment complexes in the Nashville area,” he says. “Nashville is a strong warehouse distribution market but a relatively small office market.”

The broader issues and trends facing the commercial real estate industry, Kaseff says, are those most businesses must address: re-duced demand and a lack of credit. As to Titan specifically, the company is stable. “We are fortunate during this capital markets meltdown that our properties are well-leased,” Kaseff says. “We have avoided using high leverage and have been fairly conservative in our underwriting.”

Kaseff foresees a redefining of an industry that has taken a bruising with the country’s economic slump. “As we come out of this recession,” he says, “there will be more of an emphasis on knowing real estate operations from leasing and management and less on pure financial engineering.”

As for Owen and its own long-term bet in a real estate program, Kaseff is optimistic. “There are only a few graduate business programs around the country that have a real estate focus,” he says. “I believe that Owen can compete to attract students with this emphasis. We need more Owen alums in our industry.”

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