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.
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.
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.
Peter Ciaccia [Chief Commercial Officer]
Peter Ciaccia is Chief Commercial Officer for Laurus Corporation. Peter is a member of the senior executive team developing the company’s strategic initiatives and business plan. He is responsible for leading the portfolio and capital markets strategies, including capital raises, acquisition efforts and strategic joint venture relationships.
For over 20 years, Peter has completed billions of dollars of investment and banking transactions across various industries, executing those transactions using various complex capital structures. Peter has developed a track record of sound investing against business plan objectives and is recognized as a leader in the commercial real estate investment and development industry for master plan communities, residential, office, retail, as well as stand-alone and mixed-use hotel and resort projects.
Most recently, Peter was President of Makar Properties. Prior to joining Makar, Peter served as Director of the Real Estate Group at WestLB AG, where he was responsible for the origination of acquisition, construction and repositioning loans to hotel and residential properties. Peter’s broader banking experience includes various structured finance and restructuring sectors, domestic and cross-border financings as well as active management of the credit risk exposure of the portfolio.
Peter earned his MBA at Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University. Peter serves as a Benefit Committee Member for The Orphaned Starfish Foundation and, over the years, has been active in various real estate leadership groups as well as teaching seminars.
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.
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 [Vice President of Development]
Vern Busse works with Laurus as Vice President of Development 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.
Jere Goostree [Senior Vice President - Asset Management]
Jere Goostree joined Laurus as a commercial real estate veteran with over 25 years, of deep domain expertise in Office, Retail, Multi-family, and Industrial, including most US major markets. Prior to joining Laurus Corp., Mr. Goostree held senior roles at GE Real Estate, Hudson Advisors, and C III Capital Partners executing strategic asset and portfolio level investment plans exceeding $5 billion in value. Mr. Goostree’s expertise includes debt and equity position’s, underwriting, dispositions, and he is integral in leading team efforts to maximize asset performance and returns for clients, partners, and investors. Mr. Goostree holds a Petroleum Land Management degree from The University of Texas in Austin, Texas, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas.
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.
Ken Hansen [Vice President - Asset Management]
Ken Hansen serves Laurus Corp. as Vice President – Asset Management with 35 years of hospitality industry experience including multiple brands and regional-level experience. In his current role Mr. Hansen provides operational oversight and guidance for the Laurus portfolio of hotels.
Mr. Hansen’s career has included time with Hyatt, Stouffer, Renaissance and most recently Marriott Hotels and Resorts. In 28 years of on-property experience, Mr. Hansen provided senior leadership for hotels through-out the United States, including resorts in Hawaii, convention hotels in Chicago and San Francisco, and luxury properties in San Francisco.
Prior to joining Laurus, as a member of Marriott’s Western Regional Team Mr. Hansen provided financial leadership to a portfolio of 18 full service hotels located in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and Utah, as well as financial oversight for a portfolio of over 100 select service properties in the western United States, with over $1.7 billion in annual revenue. Mr. Hansen’s portfolio included many of the top fee earners for Marriott Hotels among both full service and select service properties.
Mr. Hansen earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, and his Master of Business Administration from the San Francisco State University.
Frederique Calluaud [Vice President Corporate Communications]
Frederique Calluaud is the Vice President of Communications 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 repositioning 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 Waller [Vice President - Investor Relations]
Dasha Waller, Vice President Investor Relations, is responsible for all global investor relations efforts and communication. She also works in parallel with the capital raising team to present Laurus’ investment vehicles to high net-worth and institutional investors while overseeing reporting to all limited partners, Mrs. Waller 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 15 years’ experience in real estate marketing, investment and development, Mrs. Waller is an integral part of 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, Mrs. Waller was at Western National Group, a premier multifamily real estate company, where she was involved in the kickoff 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. Mrs. Waller earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is fluent in Czech.