Meet the team
Andres Szita [Chairman]
Andres Szita is a co-founder and Chairman of Laurus Corporation. Since the inception of Laurus Corporation in 1999, he has been successful in providing accredited investors, developers, and high net worth individuals a wide variety of real estate investment vehicles and development services. Through these operations, the company established and expanded business relations and over $2.4 billion in real estate transaction experience in the hospitality industry, office, multifamily, mixed-use, and overall development. Beyond that, the firm has over $2.6 billion in real estate development service experience. Prior to Laurus Corporation, Mr. Szita was an executive in a European apparel manufacturing business, Tassio-Italy. During his tenure, he managed the firm’s international distribution and franchising, public relations and marketing, manufacturing, and product development. Prior to this, Mr. Szita was a partner in an apparel manufacturing corporation where among his responsibilities he led the organization’s real estate development. Later, in response to a changing manufacturing environment, Mr. Szita led the strategic merger of the company with a large publicly traded corporation where he was also a Board Member. An entrepreneur at heart, Mr. Szita has built a vast array of contacts and strategic relationships with investors, developers, lenders and overall active members of the real estate community, both domestically and internationally.
Jean Paul Szita [President]
Jean Paul Szita is a co-founder and President of Laurus Corporation. Since co-founding Laurus Corporation in 1999, he has been involved with over $2.4 billion in real estate transaction experience in the hospitality industry, multifamily, office, mixed-use, and land development industries, as well as over $2.6 billion in real estate development service experience. Prior to Laurus Corporation, Mr. Szita was Director of the Board in a European apparel manufacturing business, Tassio-Italy, where he led the internal re-structuring of processes, was key in implementing cash flow management techniques, and was involved in all aspects of budget and performance control. Prior to this experience, Mr. Szita was the Chief Operation Manager in an upscale manufacturing plant, where he managed over 100 employees in the areas of information systems, warehouse operations, production, purchasing, and logistics operations. The results of his efforts included a 38% increase in production, reduction of costs, and overall increase in the production cycle, which resulted in a significant increase in profits for the firm. In response to a changing manufacturing environment, Mr. Szita was a key player in the strategic merger of the company with a large publicly traded corporation where he was also a Board Member advisor.
Philip Cyburt [Chief Executive Officer]
Philip W. Cyburt joins Laurus Corporation as Chief Executive Officer with over 28 years of real estate experience. Together with the founders, Mr. Cyburt leads the organization to ensure that the quality of each investment fulfills the greatest potential for investors and aligns with Laurus’ strategy. His career has engaged him to work closely with a wealth of well positioned contacts in the banking and real estate industries both nationally and internationally. Mr. Cyburt’s breadth of skills and knowledge in corporate restructuring, capital investment, acquisition, development, and disposition of billions of dollars in real estate transactions brings tremendous value to Laurus Corporation. Among his various prestigious roles, Mr. Cyburt has been a senior executive with two Fortune 500 companies, where he was responsible for the management of vast global real estate and development portfolios. His institutional real estate responsibilities have included: corporate and structured finance; transaction structuring; debt/equity formation and negotiations; strategic planning; portfolio valuation and feasibility studies; as well as residential and commercial development.
Prior to Laurus Corporation, Mr. Cyburt, as Managing Director of Alvarez and Marsal, LLC, served as interim CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings real estate division, where he managed their debt and equity portfolio consisting of over $23 billion of assets. He co-founded Cyburt Hall Partners, where as Managing Director he acted as an investor, developer, and operator for approximately $250 million of real estate investments. As President of Boeing Realty Corporation, he successfully directed the company’s real estate portfolio ($9 billion in assets comprising of 125 million square feet in 26 states and 63 countries). In addition, Mr. Cyburt spear headed Boeing’s relocation of its world headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. He was also elected as President of McDonnell Douglas Realty Company, which serviced and restructured a $750 million commercial real estate loan portfolio in the early 1990’s. The portfolio consisted of nonperforming loans and REO properties including office, industrial, retail, and hotels located throughout the United States. Early in his career, he was also Director at Tishman Realty and Construction. Mr. Cyburt has a B.S. degree from Chapman University, attended graduate courses at Chapman University, Pepperdine University Executive MBA Program, and the investment real estate certificate program at University of Irvine.
Austin Khan [Chief Investment Officer]
Austin Khan is Chief Investment Officer of Laurus Corporation with the completion of over $3 billion in real estate transactions in both principal and advisory roles over the past 16 years under his belt. Mr. Khan’s extensive experience in the hospitality, office, retail and multifamily sectors has positioned him as an expert in the commercial real estate arena. In his role as CIO, he oversees the acquisition and capital raising for Laurus. Prior to joining Laurus Corporation, Mr. Khan was Vice President of Acquisitions for the primary real estate and hospitality investment platform for TRT Holdings, a diversified private investment firm with $5.5 billion in assets under management. In this role, he led the global sourcing for new investment deals while staying on track with acquisition strategy. His efforts were also utilized in managing capital market relationships on behalf of the firm. Mr. Khan was a key player in completing such landmark transactions as the acquisition of the real estate assets of the Amelia Island Company, the development of the 1,000-key Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel and the recapitalization of the 720-key Champions Gate Resort in Orlando. Prior to that, Mr. Khan was a Real Estate Acquisitions Manager for the Palmetto Hospitality Fund on behalf of its development affiliate, OTO Development, where he focused on acquisitions and ground-up development of midscale and upscale hotels in the Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt families of brands. Mr. Khan started his real estate finance career in investment banking as part of the leisure, lodging and gaming group at Bank of America Securities and the Real Estate Capital Markets Group of Andersen Corporate Finance, a broker-dealer subsidiary of Arthur Andersen, LLP. Mr. Khan received his MBA with concentrations in Finance and Real Estate from Columbia Business School and a B.S. in Commerce from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.
Sam Bakhshandehpour [Managing Director]
Sam Bakhshandehpour joined Laurus Corporation as Managing Director with an extensive track record. Most recently, in his role as President, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of sbe Entertainment, Mr. Bakhshandehpour was responsible for the Company’s global strategic growth and all operations across the Hotel, Restaurant and Entertainment Divisions, which employed over 6,000 team members and a global pipeline of ~4,000 hotel and residential keys across 10 hotel properties and over 70 restaurant and entertainment venues. During his tenor, he led the execution of over $1.5bn of asset dispositions, acquisitions, and financings, and nearly doubled the Company’s EBITDA. Most recently, he was the architect behind the Company’s $167.5mm recapitalization with Security Benefit and the formation of a $500mm real estate joint venture vehicle with Cain Hoy Enterprises (both affiliates of Guggenheim).
Prior to sbe, Mr. Bakhshandehpour was a 15-year veteran of Wall Street, spending over 12 years with J.P. Morgan Securities, as the Head of Real Estate & Lodging Investment Banking practice on the West Coast and the Gaming Investment Banking practice globally. While at J.P. Morgan, he focused on mergers & acquisitions and capital raising transactions via debt and equity for gaming and lodging companies, as well as REITs, homebuilders and real estate private equity funds.
Before joining J.P. Morgan, Mr. Bakhshandehpour was in the Real Estate, Lodging & Gaming Investment Banking Group at Deutsche Bank (formerly Alex. Brown & Sons) based out of New York and Baltimore.
Mr. Bakhshandehpour holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration (double major: Finance & International Business; minor: Psychology) from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and studied abroad at Trinity College at Oxford University. Currently, he serves on the board of The New Home Company (NASDAQ: NWHM), Union Gaming Advisors LLC, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Dean’s Board of Advisors, and Make-A-Wish® Foundation. He is a founding member of the Georgetown Wall Street Alliance West, and an active member of Urban Land Institute, Young Presidents’ Organization, Make-A-Wish® Real Estate Division’s Executive Committee, and Carlthorp School’s Finance Committee. Mr. Bakhshandehpour is also a former board member of Brentwood Presbyterian Church Preschool.
Douglas Kiel [Chief Financial Officer]
Douglas Kiel joined Laurus Corporation with 25 plus years of financial, accounting and operations management experience in both public and private companies encompassing a wide range of business disciplines that include corporate and project business planning, compliance with both debt and equity covenants, financial, accounting, operations and cash flow management of partnerships and companies with over $200 million in revenue and $1 billion in assets under management across all types of real estate asset classes, including land entitlement, homebuilding, retail and office management, master planned communities and hospitality. With this experience he has created value-add operational, financial and accounting standards and processes that are best of class, which maximized the firms value and fee potential across a wide range of assets, including office buildings, retail centers, mixed use projects, master planned communities, land entitlements, housing and ground up developments.
Prior to joining Laurus Corporation, Mr. Kiel spent 14 years as an Executive Officer of a $1 billion privately-held, real estate investment and development company. Helping the company establish best of class internal operations and reporting structures. As Additionally, Mr. Kiel was responsible for all business/project operations, planning and implementation strategies, accounting functions and reporting. Also responsible for management of its institutional relationships with various large institutional equity and debt partners. As the Chief Operating and Finance Officer for the Company Mr. Kiel was responsible for all compliance and reporting functions for a large real estate portfolio and its associated debt and equity covenant compliance responsibilities while also being responsible for all internal accounting, management reporting, and operational functions.
Mr. Kiel’s career began with Koll Management Company, a large office development and management company. After becoming a Project Controller at Koll he moved into the retail development and management space by joining Donahue Schriber, where his experience in real estate grew even more by being responsible for large retail projects and malls. After spending his career exclusively in commercial real estate, Doug’s career moved to the homebuilding industry by working first for New Millennium Homes and later moving to Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc a large public homebuilder. As Corporate Controller of one of the largest public homebuilders at the time Mr. Kiel gained valuable experience with public accounting and reporting.
Mr. Kiel received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance, Real Estate and Law from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Simran Bindra [General Counsel and Director of Corporate Affairs]
Simran Bindra is the General Counsel and Director of Corporate Affairs for Laurus Corporation. Mr. Bindra boasts over 15 years of experience in representing owners and developers in all aspects of the real estate life cycle, from entity and joint venture formation and acquisition of assets to the financing and disposition of the same. Mr. Bindra has been a lead counsel and negotiated multiple high-profile construction and hospitality transactions valued at over $5 billion, and his fields of expertise include hospitality, office and retail sectors. In addition to his work on behalf of owners and developers, Mr. Bindra has served as general counsel for the commercial and specialty finance group within several commercial banks, including overseeing the origination and management of such banks’ real estate and asset backed lending platforms. Mr. Bindra has worked as a senior associate in the real estate and corporate finance groups of two Am Law 100 Law Firms, and further served as Senior Counsel for a publicly traded real estate investment trust. Prior to joining Ethika, Mr. Bindra served as Senior Director and Associate General Counsel for a Fortune 500 company. Mr. Bindra has a B.A. in Politics with a minor in Economics from Occidental College and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall). In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Bindra has also served as a board member for the South Asian Bar Association’s Public Interest Foundation.
Thuong Luong [Vice President of Portfolio Management]
Thuong Luong serves as Vice President Portfolio Management with a wealth of experience in acquisition and financing. Ms. Thuong is responsible for various aspects of acquisition, disposition, financing and restructuring of the Laurus’ real estate investments. Ms. Luong has experience working on buy-side equity investments, sell-side advisory on debt raising, private placement, IPOs, and leveraged buyouts in the financial services industry. Prior to joining Laurus Corporation, Ms. Luong was with a private equity firm Asset Management Finance, LLC (“AMF”), a New York based alternative investment subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group that focuses on investing in both traditional and alternative asset managers. At AMF, Ms. Luong was responsible for company research, structuring and underwriting, and monitoring of AMF’s 18 portfolio investments with total invested capital of $500 million. Before joining AMF, Ms. Luong was an investment banker at U.S. based Deutsche Bank Securities Group where she assisted in the development of Deutsche Bank’s asset management sector coverage and was involved in multi-billion dollar capital raising and M&A advisory services transactions. Ms. Luong’s philanthropic activities include co-founding Vital Corporate Advisors, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing financial advisory services to microfinance institutions in South East Asia and serving as an independent board member for an Asian microfinance institution. She is currently a Board Member of A Community of Friends (“ACOF”), a non-profit affordable housing developer for people with special needs. She received her Bachelor of Science in Finance & International Business from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business with honors.
Gene Ong [Vice President of Project Management]
Gene Ong joined Laurus Corporation as its VP of Project Management, and is a seasoned hospitality development executive with over 21 years of experience in project management, architecture, and interior design for major hotel projects throughout the country. Mr. Ong has over $100 million of renovation and repositioning of the hospitality portfolio either completed or under management.
Mr. Ong’s responsibilities include due diligence, feasibility studies, design management, value engineering, RFP preparation, contract negotiations, supplier relations, and overall project management throughout all project phases. While Director of Project Management and Development for Hilton and Marriott Vacation Club, he was responsible for the overall direction of all projects for the company on the West Coast. Mr. Ong earned his Bachelor of Architecture in 1993 from the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California and has focused exclusively on hospitality development and design since 1998.
Maureen Cohen [Vice President of Development]
Maureen Cohen serves as Vice President of Development for Laurus Corporation. She brings with her more than 30 years of in-depth real estate development experience, encompassing nearly all product types beginning with land use planning and entitlements, horizontal infrastructure, public utility formation and operations, Mello Roos Bond financing, CFD’s, subdivision mapping, and vertical construction of single family and multifamily communities. Ms. Cohen has directed the development of several business parks and managed the construction of over 2.5 million square feet of industrial tilt-up, mid and hi-rise commercial office buildings, and residential condominiums, as well she has managed the renovation and repositioning of one of the largest apartment portfolios in Los Angeles. She has renovated branded hospitality assets acquired by Laurus Corporation, where she has also been involved in the acquisitions and dispositions of resort properties in Mexico. Prior to joining Laurus Corporation in 2005, Ms. Cohen has worked for such notable developers as Sheldon Appel, Jeff Greene, and Rob Glass. Maureen attended Western Washington University and she has also completed numerous courses in the certificate programs at UCLA for Real Estate, Development, and Construction Management. She has been a licensed real estate agent and general contractor.
John Harounian [Vice President Business Development]
Mr. Harounian serves as the Vice President of Business Development for Laurus with over 25 years of experience, 14 of those years focused in large-scale commercial real estate investments. Mr. Harounian is responsible for establishing strategic relationships, sourcing potential acquisition and/or disposition opportunities, managing the pipeline, and coordinating joint venture opportunities. Prior to joining Laurus Corporation in 2009, Mr. Harounian was Vice President at Maram Holdings, a real estate investment management firm with a portfolio valued at more than $2.5 billion, where he led the asset management and acquisitions teams including entitlement and disposition of the real estate portfolio. During his tenure at Maram Holdings, he originated over $122 million in dispositions and managed approximately $400 million in commercial property assets. Prior to Maram Holdings, he was the Managing Director for Brooks Fabric, the 4th largest privately owned upholstery fabric distribution house in the USA, where he led his team in streamlining operations and identifying strategic growth opportunities which increased annual sales by 400% within five years. Mr. Harounian has extensive business experience in Asian countries; he is fluent in English, Farsi, and proficient in Indonesian.
Vern Busse [Senior Project Manager]
Vern Busse joined Laurus as Senior Project Manager with over 20 years of experience in hospitality development. In addition, Mr. Busse has 10 years of experience in other sector types such as: high-rise office, hospital, medical, and education with mixed-use land development. Prior to joining Laurus, Mr. Busse spent over 16 years as a Project Director for Hilton Worldwide overseeing projects in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. There he managed approximately 15 project kick-offs and 20 project openings with budgets ranging from $12 million to $230 million annually.
Mr. Busse’s responsibilities include due diligence, feasibility studies, design management, value engineering, request for proposals preparation, contract negotiations, supplier relations, and overall project management throughout all project phases. Prior to working at Hilton, Mr. Busse gained tenure in the hospitality industry as the owner representative for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Corporation, preceded by years in private practice of architecture & development, for a diverse project portfolio, based in Dallas, TX. Mr. Busse holds NCARB certification and a Bachelor of Architecture and Planning degree from the University of New Mexico.
Betty Jones [Vice President - Hospitality Group]
Betty Jones serves Laurus Corporation as Vice President – Hospitality Group. A 25-year veteran in the hospitality industry, Ms. Jones has established herself as a results-driven executive known for her ability to motivate and mobilize her sales teams to achieve the best possible results and drive revenue. Prior to joining Laurus, Ms. Jones, worked with Remington where she signed on as the company’s regional director of sales and marketing in 1993. In 1994, she became the Vice President of Sales & Marketing Limited Service where she managed and directed Limited Service Regional Directors of Sales and monitored total revenues of over 70 properties. Within the next few years she was promoted to Vice President of Transient Sales, and then again in 2001 to Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing where she managed and directed the Divisional Directors of Sales, Directors of Revenue, Sales Auditors and the IT department.
Ms. Jones has also acquired extensive luxury hotel and resort expertise. She served as Director of Sales and Marketing for LeMeridien Cancun Resort & Spa and Secrets The Vine in Cancun, Mexico. In her role with Laurus Corporation, Ms. Jones will be responsible assisting and increasing revenue performance and strategies for the hospitality assets. Ms. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.
Ameya Shinde [Vice President - Asset Management]
Ameya Shinde serves Laurus Corporation as a VP, Asset Management with a focus on the hotel portfolio. Mr. Shinde oversees the asset’s financial performance and provides asset level management on capex & renovation decisions at the property; in addition Mr. Shinde also focuses on developing third-party relationship for Laurus with brands, hotel operators and lenders.
Mr. Shinde comes to Laurus with over 8 years of experience at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. During his tenure at Starwood he has been involved in multiple facets of real estate development at Starwood’s corporate headquarters. In his last role Mr. Shinde was responsible for underwriting management and acquisitions opportunities for Starwood comprising of over $200 million of key money and/or equity investments. Prior to that, Mr. Shinde played an integral role in developing value within Starwood’s $3 billion hotel portfolio from repositioning/renovating properties to asset dispositions. Mr. Shinde also has experience with mixed-use assets, such as, hotels with branded residences and condo-hotels, and was involved in evaluating, underwriting and closing over 20 mixed-use projects, amounting to over $150 million in license fees for Starwood. Mr. Shinde received his MBA with concentration in Finance from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a B.S. in Computer Science from State University of New York at Buffalo.
Michael Cho [Senior Asset Manager]
Michael Cho serves as a Senior Asset Manager at Laurus for with a primary focus on the office and retail portfolios. Mr. Cho’s 12 years of broad experience across all commercial real estate sectors makes him an expert at managing the asset level financials and performance of each asset for which he is responsible.
Before joining Laurus, Mr. Cho was an Asset Manager at Swift Real Estate Partners focused on the execution of value-add strategies in the Silicon Valley market. Prior to his position at Swift, he oversaw and was responsible for a portfolio consisting of 7 million square feet of Class-A office and retail at the Jay Paul Company. Mr. Cho holds a B.S. from Cornell University and is a MBA candidate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Frederique Calluaud [Vice President Corporate Communications]
Frederique Calluaud is the Marketing Manager and brings with her over 18 years of marketing experience, with more than 16 of years in real estate. As Marketing Manager for Laurus Corporation, Ms. Calluaud manages the day to day public relations, property image, brand equity, and preparation of marketing materials for the individual assets. Prior to joining Laurus Corporation in 2005, Ms. Calluaud was the Marketing Manager at Sleiman Enterprises in Jacksonville, one of Northern Florida’s largest commercial real estate developers. Her responsibilities at Sleiman included the preparation of all marketing materials as well as specialized marketing to corporate real estate managers with a focus on increasing credit tenancy and reposition large commercial assets. Her experience spans from working with small tenant needs, to marketing to big-box clients, to hotels and resorts. Ms. Calluaud received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Information Systems and minors in French and Spanish from Baylor University, and is a licensed Real Estate Broker in California.
Dasha Holubec [Investor Relations Manager]
Dasha Holubec, Investor Relations Manager, is responsible for all global investor relations efforts and communication. She also works in parallel with the capital raising group to present investment vehicles to high net-worth and institutional investors, while overseeing the legalities and reporting with all limited partners. Ms. Holubec is focused on being the main point of contact for joint venture and fund level investors, helping to build and maintain relationships on behalf of the firm. Utilizing her 14 years’ experience in real estate marketing, investment and development, Ms. Holubec is an integral part of the Laurus team and a consummate client relationship expert. She started her career in marketing at CBRE where she was part of a top producing industrial team brokering sales and leases in Southern California. She later transitioned into real estate investment with Granite Peak Partners of Santa Barbara, presenting acquisition and disposition opportunities to investors and brokers. Most recently, Ms. Holubec was at Western National Group, a premier multifamily real estate company, where she was involved in the kick-off through completion of seven multifamily new development properties comprised of more than 200 units. With her considerable ability to manage projects and communicate effectively with both internal and external constituents, she played a lead role implementing the vision and the timely development of all residential amenities. Ms. Holubec earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is fluent in Czech.
Yasmine Tamjidi [Sr. Manager of Corporate Finance & Accounting]
Yasmine Tamjidi is Laurus Corporation’s Senior Manager of Corporate Finance & Accounting with more than seven years of real estate experience. Her duties include overseeing the daily operations of general accounting and financial reporting of the investment portfolio. She also assists the acquisition team in transitioning new assets to ownership by maintaining closing budgets and analysis. Further, she manages and oversees asset level reporting to ensure timeliness and accuracy of reporting. Prior to Ethika, Ms. Tamjidi worked for a business management firm where she was a dedicated account manager for Teles Properties, a luxury real estate firm. During her tenure, she managed cash flows, assisted in budgeting, and directed her team to meet clients’ financial and operational needs. Before this Ms. Tamjidi began her career as an associate to two Certified Public Accountants and was in charge of internal accounting for their firm. Ms. Tamjidi is currently pursuing her MBA from Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business after completing her Bachelors in Business Management. Ms. Tamjidi’s philanthropic activities include volunteering for many Charity events including Ad Relief, John Wayne Cancer Institute, Cedar Sinai Board of Governors and raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while competing in the SD Rock & Roll Marathon and the Nation’s Triathlon.