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Valentina Zanatta

A Unique Team Project: Building a Case Study

Edoardo Pasinato SOM ’18 writes about his experience working with Prof. Will Goetzmann, Yale ICF, SOM case writers, and 18 other SOM MBA and EMBA students on the unique case study development project in which the students created nine completely new case studies to use in Professor Goetzmann's MGT849 Cases in Commercial Real Estate course this past fall.

The main reason I decided to be a research assistant for Prof. William Goetzmann stems from my interest in the raw case approach that SOM faculty has developed over recent years. Since the beginning of my MBA, in fact, I found HBS cases to be outdated, with a repetitive approach that doesn’t include the multiple perspectives current business problems pose. When I learned that there was a case on a project of real estate urban regeneration in Venice, I felt a moral obligation to apply for it as I was born just few miles away from the lagoon: having a professional background in real estate finance, this seemed the ideal occasion to give my little contribution to a raw case.

I was extremely excited about the case, which involved Benetton (one of the most prominent Italian industrial families), Rem Koolhas (a Pritzker laureate, the equivalent of Nobel prize for architects), DFS (a worldwide duty-free operator owned by the Kering conglomerate and willing to launch a pioneering retail concept), and Venice, one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Together with Prof. Goetzmann and Prof. Zannoni, two students and I developed a multi-disciplinary approach and represented the issues of different constituencies: the private investors, public stakeholders, an international retail operator, and tourists visiting Venice from all over the world.

Our research spanned from historical archives, to statistical databases, to recent architecture publications, and required understanding also the political scandals that affected the city over the last years. We were able to collect a good number of documents which allowed us to draw a preliminary proforma of the investment and estimate potential financial returns for investors. Thanks to the two professors we were able to contact, and had the chance to interview, some of the business professionals who directly participated to the renovation project and conducted negotiations with the tenant. Everyone was very eager to collaborate with such an important institution like Yale SOM, and a representative of the investor actually flew to New Haven for a lecture on the case, in one of Prof. Goetzmann’s courses. Because the experience has been highly positive, and the business format has been launched only one year ago, the case would probably be a “living creature,” with updates and follow-ups in the future.

Working on this project has not only dramatically improved my learning experience at SOM, but it has given me the opportunity to collaborate with students with whom I had never worked before. I had the pleasure to work with Ellie Campion, an EMBA student, and Lukas Cejnar, an exchange student from London Business School and I can definitely say it was one of the best group experiences I had at SOM. Although we had different schedules and expertise, we were able to manage the project from the beginning to the end, and everyone gave a determinant contribution to its success. I am also immensely thankful to Jaan Elias, Director of Case Research and Development, and Jean Rosenthal, Project Editor, for all the assistance and the hard work they’ve done in materially writing the case and recording the interviews. I believe this interaction between students from different programs, faculty advisors, and case research team members is what makes Yale SOM a truly distinctive business school, were people look at the same business problem from different perspectives and cooperate together to reach a common goal.

Case Study Information: Fondaco dei Tedeschi: A New Luxury Mall in Venice -
*Access the case using your Yale NetID and password.

See below for photos from the class presentation of the case study in which one of the contributors to the class, Valentina Zanatta, Asset Manager at Edizione Property was able to fly to New Haven and speak further about the case.