Alex Zikakis MBA ’91 is the president and founder of Capstone Advisors. He oversees the company’s full range of real estate services, including commercial property acquisitions, value-add repositioning, property development, residential land development, and asset development management services. Under his direction, Capstone Advisors has served as an equity investor in more than $3 billion of residential development ventures, purchased five million square feet of commercial properties, overseen third-party asset management services for 1.5 million square feet of retail and office properties, and has developed a variety of commercial properties.
A dedicated Cornell alumnus, Alex often attends the Cornell Real Estate Conference in NYC and the annual Cornell Silicon Valley conference held in the Bay Area. Alex served as an advisory board member for the Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate for almost 20 years and frequently hires Cornell graduate students to work for Capstone Advisors as summer interns.
What was your favorite class / extracurricular(s) as a student?
I took several classes through the physical education department; my favorite was large boat sailing on Cayuga Lake. I also enjoyed taking wine tasting at the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, which immediately proceeded the ballroom dance class. I took both of those with my then classmate and girlfriend, Lany Meeks (now Lany Zikakis MBA ’91). Lany and I will be celebrating our 30th anniversary in a few months, and both have very fond memories of our time together at Cornell.
What do you do now? How do you spend your time these days?
I am very actively engaged in running the company I started, Capstone Advisors, enjoying its 25th anniversary. Over the last two years, I have adjusted my work schedule so that my time in the office doesn’t begin until 10 a.m., giving me time to enjoy walks on the beach with Lany and our dogs or go surfing or running before heading to the office. We spend a lot of time traveling to see our three adult children, who are scattered across the country. We’ve embraced the new remote work paradigm at our company, which allows us to spend more time between San Diego, Kauai, and Park City, where I can work while enjoying diverse outdoor activities.
What Cornell memory puts a smile on your face?
I vividly remember walking to class in the sleet and slush, wondering why I decided to move back to my hometown of Ithaca to spend another two years in those Upstate N.Y. winters! I have many fond memories of our classmates (many of whom we regularly contact) and the excellent professors. I enjoyed spending time in the great parks in the area—Treman State Park is still my all-time favorite. I miss Collegetown Bagels, Ruloffs, The Chapter House, and the Souvlaki House.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
There is no doubt that I owe a lot of my professional success to the education and professional relationships that I was able to gain while attending Cornell. I have a sincere sense of pride in being part of the Cornell community. And of course, I met my wife at Cornell (both of us were in the MBA program), so that is reason to be thankful for attending the school. Our youngest son Henry is now a junior in the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration, so we have another generation being shaped by this great learning institution.
What makes you feel most connected to Cornell while living in San Diego?
Lany and I travel to Cornell to visit our son, our most current connection to the school today. We also travel back every five years for our Reunion and enjoy reconnecting with classmates and the administration during those trips. I attend conferences hosted by Cornell that are very insightful and valuable for my professional growth—I often attend the Cornell Real Estate Conference in NYC and the annual Cornell CSV conference held in the Bay Area. I served as an advisory board member for the Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate for almost 20 years and have frequently hired Cornell graduate students to work for our company as summer interns. Cornell does a great job of making sure that someone from the Alumni Affairs team visits me at the office on an annual basis, which allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on at the school.
What are you reading these days?
I try to keep a good balance between reading both fiction and non-fiction. The two most recent novels I read are Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Both books take place in the not-too-distant future and deal with both artificial intelligence and climate change. My favorite recent non-fiction books are Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life and Work, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I strongly urge everyone in our company to read both books as each is full of insights into organization and human behavior.
Did anyone at Cornell have a positive influence on your life?
I’d say that the person at Cornell that had the most significant influence on my life was the admissions staff that decided to accept my application! I enjoy spending time with Dean Mark Nelson, who was my accounting professor during both of our first years at Cornell—I was a first-year MBA student, and Mark was a new professor. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and I appreciate how positive, open, and accessible he is and what an excellent job he is doing leading the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. He continues to be a source of great wisdom, insight, and a fantastic resource for all that is going on at Cornell today.
What motivates your philanthropy?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to grow up in a family that provided a strong emphasis on learning and access to an excellent education. My folks, neither of whom went to college, sent four kids through college, three of whom attended Ivy League schools. Education opened the world of opportunity to us, and I know that many people do not have the same background. One of the main focuses of our philanthropy is educational support. Our focus includes supporting primary school education to marginalized groups in less-developed countries and providing scholarship opportunities to young adults here in the U.S., especially those who are the first in their families to attend college.
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?
My goal is to be a thoughtful and productive allocator of resources in a manner that benefits others to improve their lives. My goal is to achieve business success by creating value for our customers and providing a rewarding and satisfying career for our team members.