Remembering His Roots

PROVO, Utah – Jun 30, 2021 – BYU Marriott School of Business alum Wes Whitman is an owner of a real estate private equity firm and has an MBA from Harvard, achievements the 2003 finance graduate credits to the foundational experiences he had at BYU Marriott. His education as an undergraduate prepared him for accomplishments throughout his life and allows him to now give back to the school that helped set his career in motion. After succeeding in real estate, he now works to help students strengthen their knowledge of real estate career paths and create connections with the BYU Marriott alumni network.

Whitman’s path to entrepreneurship, and ultimately a career in real estate, began while working through his business management degree, with an emphasis in finance and active involvement with then-called Center for Entrepreneurship. While attending school, Whitman and two fellow students, Bill Marble and Ryan Sanders, started a software company, Calixus, to help newspapers transition to the then-emerging digital world. Whitman explains that the faculty of BYU Marriott helped he and his partners succeed. “Starting a company as students and learning to work through the roadblocks that all startups face ended up being a huge part of our education. Several professors at BYU Marriott, as well as alumni, were super generous with their time and really helped us along the way,” shares Whitman. “As we were learning in class how to write business plans and generate cash-flow forecasts, we were then working long nights to actually apply it to our company.” These experiences allowed Whitman and the other founding members to attract outside partners, complete the product, and ultimately sell the software rights in 2003.

The lessons learned, opportunities provided, and relationships established at BYU Marriott ultimately led Whitman to the Harvard Business School (HBS), where he graduated with an MBA in 2005. Whitman shares that his education at BYU Marriott was fundamental to preparing him for the group-centered learning at Harvard. “At first, working in a group setting at BYU did not come naturally to me, as up to that point, I had tried to just put my head down and knock out my work independently,” he explains. “I learned, however, that group collaboration led to greater insights, fewer blind spots, better outcomes, and stronger relationships – all of which were ultimately critical and rewarding at business school and of course, in every organization in which I’ve been involved since that time.”

The education Whitman received from BYU Marriott was valuable in other ways as well. He remembers several hands-on projects that mirrored the real world, including a real estate investment class, which became one of his favorites. Whitman recalls he and his project partner, Mike Ord, presented their real estate investment venture to an investment committee, in a boardroom setting in the Tanner Building. He explains that preparing for, structuring, and delivering that pitch was foundational to him learning how to attract partners and raise capital for his future ventures and helping him recognize how much he enjoyed the experience.

The professors in his BYU Marriott real estate investment class, along with a family love for real estate, eventually led Whitman to the industry after completing his MBA. He was recruited as an early member of the investment team at Greystar, an international real estate developer. After five years at Greystar, Whitman partnered with two of his life-long mentors, Bob Whitman and Joel Peterson, to co-found Whitman Peterson, a real estate investment firm which has raised five institutional equity funds in the last ten years. Whitman’s goal is to continue to help his partners and team build and grow the firm into a top-tier investment company that lasts well beyond his and his co-founders’ involvement.

Through his career, Whitman has not forgotten the people and institutions that helped get him to where he is. Because of the gratitude he feels for his experiences in the finance program, he wants to give back to ensure opportunities are available for current and future BYU students. To accomplish that goal, Whitman has worked with several BYU Marriott faculty and alumni, including many friends and peers in the industry, to start an annual BYU Global Real Estate Conference.

The purpose of the conference, which was held for the first time in October 2020, is to help BYU students learn from and connect with real estate leaders from all over the world and ultimately find placement in top companies in the real estate industry. In return, visiting leaders and companies connect with BYU students and see how hiring BYU graduates can benefit their companies. “All of us involved with the conference truly believe that BYU students are among the most capable and talented in the country and that we have an opportunity to introduce them to a broader base of companies, and ultimately communities, in which they can ‘go forth to serve’ throughout the world,” Whitman says. “Everyone involved is really excited to advance that goal.” 

The growth of the BYU Global Real Estate Conference is something Whitman looks forward to in the coming years as connections between students and industry leaders continue to form. His memories of BYU Marriott remind Whitman of how the school assisted in his opportunities and the promise of its next generation of students. “When those of us involved with the conference first discussed the idea, I was amazed by how much the faculty were already doing to assist the students in providing introductions to major real estate companies throughout the country. It was just one more example of how much time and effort BYU and its faculty are willing to put in to help students succeed and to advance the mission of the school. All of us are just humbled to be involved.”

BYU Marriott finance alum Wes Whitman and his wife, Nicole, with their five children. Whitman says his wife was the most important part of his BYU experience. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.
BYU Marriott finance alum Wes Whitman and his wife, Nicole, with their five children. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.
The Whitman Peterson team. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.
The Whitman Peterson team. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.
The BYU Real Estate Club visited Whitman Peterson's California offices in 2019. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.
The BYU Real Estate Club visited Whitman Peterson's California offices in 2019. Photo courtesy of Wes Whitman.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller