John D. Macomber - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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John D. Macomber

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration

John Macomber is a Senior Lecturer in the Finance unit at Harvard Business School. His professional background includes leadership of real estate, construction, and information technology businesses. At HBS, Mr. Macomber's work focuses on the urban impacts of private finance and delivery of public infrastructure projects in both the developed and emerging worlds. These include transportation, energy, water/sanitation, and real estate investments that speed economic development, reduce environmental impacts (notably air and water pollution), and facilitate individual opportunity. His teaching combines infrastructure finance (including public-private partnerships), economic development, and urban planning as well as the impact of new technologies.

Mr. Macomber is engaged in the Business and Environment Initiative and Social Enterprise Initiatives at HBS and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Harvard University Center for African Studies. He teaches Finance, Real Estate, Urbanization, and Entrepreneurship courses in the elective curriculum and in Executive Education.

Mr. Macomber is the former Chairman and CEO of the George B H Macomber Company, a large regional general contractor; and remains a principal in several real estate partnerships. He serves or has served on the boards of Young Presidents Organization International (YPO), Boston Private Bank, Mount Auburn Hospital, and the WGBH Educational Foundation.

Mr. Macomber is a graduate of Dartmouth College (Mathematics in the Social Sciences) and Harvard Business School.

Journal Articles
  1. Building Sustainable Cities

    John D. Macomber

    By 2050 the number of people living in cities will have nearly doubled, to 6 billion, and the problems created by this rampant urbanization are among the most important challenges of our time. Of all resource-management issues, the author argues, water, electricity, and transit deserve the greatest focus. Every other service a competitive city provides—functional housing, schools, hospitals, stores, police and fire departments, heating, cooling, waste management—depends on a reliable infrastructure for those three resources. Many corporations and investors assume that fixing cities is the purview of government. But governments around the world are stuck—financially, politically, or both. Implementing solutions to the problems of urbanization requires large amounts of capital, exceptional managerial skill, and significant alignment of interests. All these abound in the private sector. Thus major opportunities exist for businesses that can create and claim value by improving resource efficiency. The products and services that new (or legacy) cities will require, and that provide the return investors and entrepreneurs need, optimize both technological sophistication and financial sophistication—approaches designed to attract capital by offering different levels of risk and return, different cash-flow priorities, and opportunities for both short-term and long-term investment. The author cites a number of companies that have moved toward or into what he calls "the efficiency frontier." These include Sarvajal, in India, which saves money and eliminates waste by selling direct to customers through its "water ATMs"; the Boston-based EnerNOC, which manages electricity production and consumption to reduce spikes in demand; and EMBARQ, based in Washington, DC, which coordinates the interests of business and government to organize city transit services.

    Keywords: Growth Management; Urban Development; Entrepreneurship; Infrastructure; City;


    Macomber, John D. "Building Sustainable Cities." Harvard Business Review 91, nos. 7/8 (July–August 2013): 40–50.  View Details
  2. The Role of Finance and Private Investment in Developing Sustainable Cities

    John D. Macomber

    Three trends will drive urban investment, development, and entrepreneurship in the next two decades. This article provides tools to identify the situations and circumstances that will be most favorable for private sector involvement in consideration of these trends. The first trend is urbanization. Over the next twenty years, the number of people living in cities will double, with three billion additional urban dwellers. Second, shared resources like clean water, clean air, energy, and places to put solid waste are already scarce and constrained. Urbanization will only exacerbate these pressures. Third, almost no local or national government can mobilize both the capital and the political consensus to make investments in the infrastructure that will lead to more effective use of these resources. There is a largely unrecognized opportunity for the private sector to engage in selective investments that consider these trends. Investors and entrepreneurs can make money by extending these "common good" kinds of items, which use resources more productively. In the winning situations, this makes these cities more economically competitive at the same time. This article further argues for investments grounded in the basics of smart physical configuration. Examples are the compact arrangement of buildings, efficient use of water and power, and deployment of transit that reduces congestion. Investment and urban planning in three Asian cities are profiled as illustrations. Two sample proformas featuring multiple classes of securities illustrate the concepts.

    Keywords: Trends; Demographics; Private Sector; Investment; City; Infrastructure; Opportunities; Urban Development;


    Macomber, John D. "The Role of Finance and Private Investment in Developing Sustainable Cities." Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 23, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 64–74.  View Details
Book Chapters
  1. Government and the Minimalist Platform: Business at the Kumbh Mela

    John D. Macomber and Tarun Khanna

    India's Kumbh Mela, a religious festival occurring once every 12 years at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, attracts over 80 million pilgrims to a temporary "pop-up megacity" over the course of two months. A team of faculty and students from five Harvard schools attended the Kumbh Mela to learn from the phenomenon. The festival was a planning, organizational, financial, and spiritual success—in stark contrast to the understood concept of India as unable to accomplish projects at large scale. The authors propose that the concept of government as a minimalist platform—focusing on a handful of tasks and doing them well—was the key to success. The administration focused on land allocation, roads (mostly for walking), public safety, electricity, and water. Non-government actors provided almost all other products and services. This was a match of ambition with capability that can be replicated in other fast growing, semi-informal cities in the developing world.


    Macomber, John D., and Tarun Khanna. "Government and the Minimalist Platform: Business at the Kumbh Mela." In Kumbh Mela, January 2013: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City, edited by Rahul Mehrotra and Felipe Vera. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2015.  View Details
  2. The Role of Multiplier Firms and Megaprojects in Leading Change for Sustainability

    Amy C. Edmondson, Martine Haas, John D. Macomber and Tiona Zuzul

    In both the private and public sectors, organizations around the world face increasingly pressing questions about how to stimulate and manage change for long-term environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the roles of multiplier firms and megaprojects in leading change for sustainability around the world, particularly in the context of the built environment. Multiplier firms are organizations that work with and offer ongoing sustainability solutions to a range of client organizations. Megaprojects are finite-duration initiatives involving multiple diverse entities in the design and delivery of a large-scale development, such as a brand new ecologically sustainable city. Drawing on four illustrative case studies of multiplier firms and megaprojects engaged in sustainability-related initiatives, we also explain the value of learning logic, in contrast to blueprint logic, for leading change for sustainability.

    Keywords: Leading Change; Environmental Sustainability;


    Edmondson, Amy C., Martine Haas, John D. Macomber, and Tiona Zuzul. "The Role of Multiplier Firms and Megaprojects in Leading Change for Sustainability." Chap. 11 in Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective, edited by Rebecca Henderson, Ranjay Gulati, and Michael Tushman. Oxford University Press, 2015.  View Details
Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. Infrastructure in Nigeria: Unlocking Pension Fund Investments

    John Macomber and Pippa Tubman Armerding

    The so-called “infrastructure finance gap” was a problem in Nigeria as in many parts of the world. Infrastructure projects like power plants and dams were very large capital investments that could generate long-term consistent cash flows, but their financing and delivery involved multiple risks and uncertainties. If funds for infrastructure development came from traditional international sources like the World Bank or African Development Bank, those lenders would worry about foreign exchange, interest rates, and political risk and would almost always seek sovereign guarantees (payment guarantees from the federal government). Such assurances and guarantees were hard to come by, difficult to negotiate, and project inception could take decades. In this context could pension funds or private equity-type structures be viable alternative sources of financing for infrastructure? By 2017 Nigeria had reformed its pension administration system so that pension funds could both accept significant amounts of retirement funds from workers and manage and invest those funds in a transparent and safe structure. One of the asset classes in addition to government bonds, equities, and corporate bonds that was authorized for investment by pension funds was infrastructure debt securities. Until recently, few Nigerian infrastructure securities had strong enough credit ratings to be investable by cautious pension funds. Infrastructure Credit Guarantee Company (InfraCredit) hoped to break that logjam by supporting infrastructure issues denominated in local currency with credit assurances taking the place of sovereign guarantees. Other entities took different approaches to raising capital for infrastructure in this market. Africa Plus Partners (Africa Plus), for example, proposed a fund structure with features of American private equity. It was not yet clear if this type of fund arrangement would be as attractive as debt for pension fund investors. Could InfraCredit become a very large player? If the model was proven, could it be replicated in other nations? What would be the conditions precedent to make other nations attractive for an InfraCredit model?

    Keywords: Pension Fund Investing; Infrastucture; emerging markets; Power/Energy; Credit Enhancement; Infrastructure; Project Finance; Investment Funds; Emerging Markets; Nigeria; Africa;


    Macomber, John, and Pippa Tubman Armerding. "Infrastructure in Nigeria: Unlocking Pension Fund Investments." Harvard Business School Case 218-071, February 2018.  View Details
  2. Poseidon Carlsbad: Desalination and the San Diego County Water Authority

    John Macomber

    Extreme drought conditions in California have significant impacts on the ability of the San Diego County Water Authority to provide adequate water for current users. Water shortfalls also could curtail the economic development of one of the fastest growing regions in America. Seawater desalination is expensive and energy intensive, but it could be a partial solution. Brian Brady and other members of the Authority need to vote for or against a financing and construction plan that includes a 30-year water purchase agreement with Poseidon Resources (Channelside) LP, a private company. In the early years the cost of water would be almost double the average unit cost the Authority pays at the time of the decision. Is this proposal good policy in the long run to lock in supply and price for 7% of the region's water needs? Is the private finance and provision of public infrastructure appropriate for a basic good like water? The case also investigates the allocation of water supply and usage in California and the environmental impacts of running this plant on electricity drawn from the local utility, which in San Diego County is about 65% from fossil sources. The case is intended to be used as an introduction to water policy, seawater desalination, bond finance and cash flow waterfalls, infrastructure as a foundation for economic development, and risk allocation in public-private partnerships.

    Keywords: Risk Management; Partners and Partnerships; Resource Allocation; Public Sector; Private Sector; Environmental Sustainability; Policy; Infrastructure; Green Technology Industry; Utilities Industry; California;


    Macomber, John. "Poseidon Carlsbad: Desalination and the San Diego County Water Authority." Harvard Business School Case 215-057, February 2015. (Revised December 2016.)  View Details
  3. EcoMotors International

    John D. Macomber and Hermes Alvarez

    Eco-Motors, funded in part by Khosla Ventures, has to decide how to go to market with a new technology for internal combustion engines for automotive and industrial use. The OPOC engine has opposed pistons and is a two-stroke engine, as compared to a more traditional in-line or V-oriented 6, 8, or 12 cylinder gas or diesel engine. A two-stroke engine is cheaper to build and has higher power output than a four-stroke engine but historically has been more polluting. At present in the U.S., two-stroke engines are mostly deployed in lawnmowers and chainsaws with four-stroke engines the leaders in cars, boats, and generators. Should the company be an invention company licensing its technology; an engine designer and manufacturer selling to auto, marine, and fixed OEM companies; or a fully integrated power and transport solution? How is the value chain currently organized, what obstacles are there in going to market, and how can this company thrive with this innovation that is cleaner and cheaper than the incumbent but hard to explain and to deploy?

    Keywords: Technological Innovation; Business Model; Customer Value and Value Chain; Engineering; Manufacturing Industry; Green Technology Industry; Auto Industry;


    Macomber, John D., and Hermes Alvarez. "EcoMotors International." Harvard Business School Case 215-012, July 2014. (Revised December 2016.)  View Details
  4. China Vanke (A-1)

    Lynn S. Paine, John Macomber and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    As China's largest homebuilder, China Vanke Co. Ltd. (Vanke) was facing an industry downturn sparked by strong government intervention. Faced with falling prices, Vanke's president must decide whether to keep the company's pricing and product positioning intact, and how aggressively to pursue its greener building strategy. Follow-up cases present additional decisions, including how, and how aggressively, to improve safety and quality (A-2), and whether to expand into other asset classes, such as commercial real estate.

    Keywords: real estate; China; green building; sustainable development; leadership; business government relations; Leadership; Business and Government Relations; Urban Development; Growth and Development Strategy; Safety; Real Estate Industry; China;


    Paine, Lynn S., John Macomber, and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "China Vanke (A-1)." Harvard Business School Case 314-104, March 2014. (Revised May 2014.)  View Details
  5. China Vanke (B)

    Lynn S. Paine, John Macomber and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    The case describes Vanke's response to the decisions posed in the A1, A2, and A3 cases and asks whether Vanke should expand its strategic scope by defining itself as an "urban facilities provider" rather than a "residential housing developer." The management team is also reviewing the company's forays in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.S., and Europe.

    Keywords: real estate; China; green building; sustainable development; safety; asset management; Growth and Development Strategy; Urban Development; Safety; Assets; Real Estate Industry; China;


    Paine, Lynn S., John Macomber, and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "China Vanke (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 314-107, March 2014. (Revised April 2014.)  View Details
  6. Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor: India's Road to Prosperity?

    John Macomber and Vidhya Muthuram

    The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) was an ambitious $90 billion infrastructure project covering the 1483-km distance between Delhi and Mumbai. The project would create new industrial townships, high speed freight lines, six-lane expressways, airports, ports and power plants. It would also give the country a unique opportunity to plan, develop and build new cities that were economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The DMIC could boost India's flailing manufacturing sector, increase foreign investments, augment exports, generate jobs and situate the country on a higher growth trajectory. While the project held many promises for India, there were many risks involved. Its success would depend on land acquisition and unprecedented levels of coordination across various government agencies. This case examines whether Amitabh Kant, CEO, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), the nodal agency for planning and implementing the project, would be able to deliver on the project's promises.


    Macomber, John, and Vidhya Muthuram. "Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor: India's Road to Prosperity?" Harvard Business School Case 214-077, January 2014.  View Details
  7. Mexico City Water Shortage

    John D. Macomber, Regina Garcia-Cuellar, Griffin H. James and Frederik Nellemann

    In this case, a property company, a water privatizer, and municipal engineers explore the causes of and solutions to a severe water shortage in Mexico City, a great global capital. The protagonist is a real estate investor doing due diligence on the magnitude of the crisis, the impact on the firm's operations, and the likelihood of resolution. Due diligence includes interviews with city water officials and global-scale water privatizers. This case is an excellent introduction to city scale infrastructure issues on a global level. A related case, "Water Shortage and Property Investing in Mexico City," HBS No. 210-085, contains more real estate finance and less water infrastructure finance material than this case does.

    Keywords: Infrastructure; Environmental Sustainability; Urban Development; Mexico City;


    Macomber, John D., Regina Garcia-Cuellar, Griffin H. James, and Frederik Nellemann. "Mexico City Water Shortage." Harvard Business School Case 212-044, January 2012. (Revised January 2014.)  View Details
  8. Hudson Yards—The Other Side of the Tracks?

    Christopher M. Gordon, John D. Macomber, A. Eugene Kohn and Lisa Strope

    Stephan Ross, CEO of Related Companies, is considering an opportunity to invest $1 billion for the air rights over the Hudson Rail Yards in New York City. The investment would allow Related to build a platform over the operating rail tracks and develop this blighted edge of New York City into one of the top tier places to live, work and shop in the world.

    Keywords: real estate; Property; Growth and Development Strategy; Urban Development; Real Estate Industry; New York (city, NY);


    Gordon, Christopher M., John D. Macomber, A. Eugene Kohn, and Lisa Strope. "Hudson Yards—The Other Side of the Tracks?" Harvard Business School Case 213-040, January 2013. (Revised March 2015.)  View Details
  9. Edward Lundberg and the Rockville Building: Energy Efficiency Finance in Commercial Real Estate

    John D. Macomber and Frederik Nellemann

    A commercial landlord analyzes options for funding and accomplishing energy efficiency retrofit. The situation is complicated by lease terms and uncertain effectiveness of the intervention. Students must grapple with obstacles including changing energy prices, variations in energy needed in different climate scenarios, issues in net and gross lease responsibilities, and issues in finding adequate cash flow and security to satisfy a range of possible third-party funders. The business opportunity for third-party funders is also discussed.

    Keywords: Finance; Real Estate Industry;


    Macomber, John D., and Frederik Nellemann. "Edward Lundberg and the Rockville Building: Energy Efficiency Finance in Commercial Real Estate." Harvard Business School Case 212-067, February 2012. (Revised September 2013.)  View Details
  10. Schneider Electric: Becoming the Global Specialist in Energy Management

    John D. Macomber and Rachna Tahilyani

    Global electrical products company assesses growth and market demands in India. Company must decide between a products acquisition or developing a service business. Students need to be aware of different country conditions, demands on implementation of different strategies, impact on culture. Also discusses energy performance contracting in the context of making India's energy generation capability more efficient.

    Keywords: Globalization; Energy; Management; Energy Industry;


    Macomber, John D., and Rachna Tahilyani. "Schneider Electric: Becoming the Global Specialist in Energy Management." Harvard Business School Case 212-082, February 2012. (Revised April 2017.)  View Details
  11. Dharavi: Developing Asia's Largest Slum (A)

    Lakshmi Iyer, John D. Macomber and Namrata Arora

    Maharashtra state is accepting bids to redevelop Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia. A real estate developer assesses the risks and tenders a bid. The bid conditions include providing new free housing to tens of thousands of slum dwellers, which is anticipated to be paid for from the revenues from developing and selling market-rate housing. While the primary concerns are cost of construction, cost of capital, and revenues from sale of units, the analysis must consider many aspects of risk including political risk, foreign exchange risk, market risk, and execution risk. Further, the discussion covers social aspects including whether the slum should be redeveloped at all, whether it should be redeveloped by government or by the private sector, and whether to accomplish it in large chunks or in smaller increments. Additional topics that can be covered include consideration of what happens to commercial activities formerly run from slum dwellings, whether the market-rate units will indeed sell for high prices if there are tens of thousands of former slum dwellers housed nearby, and whether the slum dwellers will be allowed to resell their units or whether they must remain in them. Other issues include timing of the project, guarantees to and from the government and the private parties to mitigate risk, and whether this model, if successful, can be extended to other slums in Asia.

    Keywords: Risk Management; Development Economics; Housing; Urban Development; Emerging Markets; Social Issues; Business and Government Relations; Real Estate Industry; Mumbai;


    Iyer, Lakshmi, John D. Macomber, and Namrata Arora. "Dharavi: Developing Asia's Largest Slum (A)." Harvard Business School Case 710-004, July 2009. (Revised June 2011.)  View Details
  12. Dharavi: Developing Asia's Largest Slum (B)

    Lakshmi Iyer and John Macomber

    In July 2009, as investors prepared to submit financial bids for the $3 billion Dharavi slum redevelopment project, considerable economic and political risks remained.

    Keywords: Risk and Uncertainty; Private Equity; Social Issues; Investment; Developing Countries and Economies; Business and Government Relations; Financial Services Industry; Real Estate Industry; Mumbai;


    Iyer, Lakshmi, and John Macomber. "Dharavi: Developing Asia's Largest Slum (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 711-107, May 2011.  View Details
  13. Urbi and the City Licensee Managers

    John D. Macomber and Regina Garcia-Cuellar

    A leading low income housing builder in Mexico decides which prospective new local partner best extends its advantages in managing twin production lines of homes and clients. URBI has built substantial competitive advantage in the technology and culture that matches the outputs of these two production systems. The company has also built extensive expertise in accessing the many mortgage and funding sources in Mexico. To grow, the company is interested in entering other Mexican geographies but faces a choice of doing this with its own staff and buying land for cash, or partnering with local entrepreneurs and local land owners. In evaluating the choices, students must think more deeply about what makes the two production lines work and how to balance the two lines. The discussion can end with comparisons of the Mexican political and government circumstances that encourage this method of producing workforce housing as compared with the U.S., China, India, and other markets.

    Keywords: Mortgages; Government and Politics; Housing; Growth and Development Strategy; Brands and Branding; Market Entry and Exit; Production; Supply Chain; Organizational Culture; Franchise Ownership; Partners and Partnerships; Competitive Advantage; Real Estate Industry; China; India; Mexico; United States;


    Macomber, John D., and Regina Garcia-Cuellar. "Urbi and the City Licensee Managers." Harvard Business School Case 209-144, April 2009. (Revised May 2010.)  View Details
  14. Bardhaman (A): Shrachi and the West Bengal Housing Board

    John D. Macomber and Viraal Balsari

    A real estate developer decides whether to enter into a public private partnership with the government of West Bengal to develop a township on farmland. The decisions include whether to expand operations from the company's base in Kolkata to Bardhaman, 100 km away; whether to subdivide and sell raw land lots or follow the developer's vision and build a planned township; whether to enter into a public private partnership with the government of West Bengal, led by the Left Front and the Communist Party of India as equity partners; or whether to also accept a private equity firm into the project, what to build, and in what sequence.

    Keywords: Development Economics; Growth and Development Strategy; Business and Government Relations; Decisions; Private Equity; Design; Housing; Infrastructure; Projects; Real Estate Industry; West Bengal;


    Macomber, John D., and Viraal Balsari. "Bardhaman (A): Shrachi and the West Bengal Housing Board." Harvard Business School Case 210-062, February 2010. (Revised May 2010.)  View Details
  15. Bardhaman (B): Bengal Shrachi and the Township Design Decision

    John D. Macomber and Viraal Balsari

    A real estate developer in West Bengal chooses between two master plans for a 260 acre new township considering design, financing, and phasing. Two detailed master plans are considered, one with a radial design and an internal town square and one with a grid design and internal focus on parks and water features. The designs have different revenue potential, different cost implications, and different phasing decisions. The analysis includes soft issues and aesthetic issues including what contributes to the feel of a place and what contributes to various land uses supporting each other (retail, residential, office). The analysis also includes a detailed proforma for each plan. This case builds on "Bardhaman (A): Shrachi and the West Bengal Housing Board."

    Keywords: Urban Development; Construction; Design; Finance; Construction Industry; Real Estate Industry; West Bengal;


    Macomber, John D., and Viraal Balsari. "Bardhaman (B): Bengal Shrachi and the Township Design Decision." Harvard Business School Supplement 210-063, February 2010. (Revised May 2010.)  View Details
  16. Sarvajal: Water for All

    John D. Macomber and Mona Sinha

    Entrepreneur wrestles with business model using SMS and RFID technology, franchising, and leasing to rapidly grow off-the-grid water purification business without subsidies. The company seeks to provide potable water services to rural and urban India where the public infrastructure does not exist. Past efforts have been stymied by rural operations problems including expensive technologies, challenging maintenance issues, cash management problems, lack of capital, and lack of a business model that makes sense for retail operators without subsidy. Using a franchising model that relies on seasoned local entrepreneurs, communication technology that monitors flows and quality, payment technology that takes cash out of the equation, and a "capital light" leasing model, the company hopes to create and share a new business model. If successful, the model can be copied by other social entrepreneurs with a market-based pricing scheme to provide other forms of infrastructure in emerging markets.

    Keywords: Business Subsidiaries; Business Model; Communication Technology; Private Sector; Social Entrepreneurship; Cost Management; Rural Scope; Emerging Markets; Infrastructure; Problems and Challenges; India;


    Macomber, John D., and Mona Sinha. "Sarvajal: Water for All." Harvard Business School Case 211-028, February 2011. (Revised September 2013.)  View Details
  17. Sound Group China: Urban Waste Entrepreneurs

    John D. Macomber, Chad M. Carr and Fan Zhao

    Private sector entrepreneur in China with advanced solid waste management capability competes with state owned enterprises and also government policies supporting a rival technology. Wen Yibo has used engineering expertise and political savvy to build a major privately held company providing the entire supply chain of water treatment, waste water, and integrated municipal solid waste capabilities. The company's services include engineering, manufacturing, consulting, "engineer, procure construct," "build operate transfer," and other forms of public-private partnership. The handling of municipal solid waste takes up to 50% of the annual budget of many urban areas in the developing world. The ability to use private sector funds and expertise could be critical to urban development. However, state owned enterprises can observe the success of private business and can enter and compete using their own skills, contacts, and inexpensive capital. The government may also be interested in subsidizing incineration over composting as a part of "waste to energy" strategy, even though this is less efficient than generating electricity from a coal or gas plant. The company has to decide whether to stick to its waste management roots or expand into an opportunistic incineration technology with minimal and nominal waste-to-energy benefits.

    Keywords: Private Sector; Public Sector; Service Delivery; Business and Government Relations; Environmental Sustainability; Wastes and Waste Processing; Urban Development; Utilities Industry; China;


    Macomber, John D., Chad M. Carr, and Fan Zhao. "Sound Group China: Urban Waste Entrepreneurs." Harvard Business School Case 211-086, February 2011. (Revised September 2013.)  View Details
  18. Hang Lung Properties and the Chengdu Decision (B)

    John D. Macomber, Michael Shih-Ta Chen and Keith Chi-Ho Wong

    Second phase of auction for a prime retail development parcel in Chengdu, China. Competition forces the firm to revisit all of its land purchase criteria. Hang Lung Properties is known for rigorous due diligence, for discipline in buying property, and for good understanding of market cycles. The (B) case reveals the firm's assumptions in the Chengdu situation, as compared to what students had to derive on their own in the (A) case. The (B) case also reviews strategic focus with respect to asset classes and geography, as well as best practices for what to look for in cities that will be attractive for superblock mixed-use projects.

    Keywords: Geographic Location; Auctions; Bids and Bidding; Infrastructure; Competitive Strategy; Valuation; Real Estate Industry; Chengdu;


    Macomber, John D., Michael Shih-Ta Chen, and Keith Chi-Ho Wong. "Hang Lung Properties and the Chengdu Decision (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 210-092, June 2010. (Revised December 2013.)  View Details
  19. China Vanke (A-2)

    Lynn S. Paine, John D. Macomber and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    China Vanke's president and his team must decide on a plan of action after reviewing the quality issues the company faced in early 2012 after a series of highly publicized incidents concerning the quality of the homes they built.

    Keywords: real estate; China; green building; sustainable development; safety; asset management; Leadership; Urban Development; Growth and Development Strategy; Assets; Safety; Real Estate Industry; China;


    Paine, Lynn S., John D. Macomber, and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "China Vanke (A-2)." Harvard Business School Supplement 314-105, March 2014. (Revised February 2016.)  View Details
  20. China Vanke (A-3)

    Lynn S. Paine, John Macomber and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    China Vanke's president is considering whether and how the company might make further inroads into the commercial real estate sector, while continuing to lead in the residential sector. He is also considering whether to branch into overseas residential markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States.

    Keywords: real estate; China; sustainable development; green building; safety; asset management; Urban Development; Growth and Development Strategy; Safety; Assets; Real Estate Industry; China;


    Paine, Lynn S., John Macomber, and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "China Vanke (A-3)." Harvard Business School Supplement 314-106, March 2014.  View Details
  21. Hang Lung Properties and the Chengdu Decision (A)

    John D. Macomber, Michael Shih-Ta Chen and Keith Chi-Ho Wong

    A residential real estate developer competes in a heated auction for a prime retail development site in the interior of China during the 2009 boom. Total project cost might be in excess of $1 billion U.S. for over 4,000,000 square feet of building. Hang Lung Properties has enjoyed success in residential building in Hong Kong but has focused on very limited projects in China, notably two retail properties in Shanghai. After a decade in Shanghai the firm decides to enter second-tier Chinese cities including Chengdu, a city of 11 million in interior China. The case covers Hang Lung Properties' due diligence and thought process with respect to anticipated rental income, construction costs, and land costs. The auction includes many other well-capitalized firms and the price escalates. Hang Lung's team must decide whether to participate or withdraw. Students need to use judgment with respect to estimates of key variables including stabilized income, construction cost, and minimum expectations for return on investment in order to prepare their bids.

    Keywords: Buildings and Facilities; Decision Choices and Conditions; Investment Return; Geographic Location; Auctions; Bids and Bidding; Infrastructure; Valuation; Real Estate Industry; Chengdu;


    Macomber, John D., Michael Shih-Ta Chen, and Keith Chi-Ho Wong. "Hang Lung Properties and the Chengdu Decision (A)." Harvard Business School Case 210-089, June 2010. (Revised December 2013.)  View Details
  22. Water Shortage and Property Investing in Mexico City

    John D. Macomber, Regina Garcia-Cuellar and Griffin James

    A commercial property company evaluates water risks including the government's ability to remedy, the company's operating exposure and mitigation, and whether to relocate because of water risk. A real estate fund manager assesses investment prospects in Mexico City in the context of a major water supply and distribution crisis facing one of the world's largest cities. Can the investment manager understand the water problems so she can make a decision whether to invest in Mexico City? What will she learn about how water is sourced and distributed in Mexico City? And how might the potential public-private partnerships being discussed affect her investment prospects? The fund's investors are seeking real estate exposure in major world cities, particularly Mexico City. How can they assess and mitigate this exposure? How can they extend this thinking to other cities and countries?

    Keywords: Private Equity; Investment; Risk Management; Infrastructure; Privatization; Business and Government Relations; Partners and Partnerships; Financial Services Industry; Real Estate Industry; Utilities Industry; Mexico City;


    Macomber, John D., Regina Garcia-Cuellar, and Griffin James. "Water Shortage and Property Investing in Mexico City." Harvard Business School Case 210-085, May 2010. (Revised January 2014.)  View Details
  23. Phu My Hung

    John Macomber and Dawn H. Lau

    Privately held city development promoters decide whether to partner on next phase or go it alone in a 20-year, 4000-acre project. Set outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, this decades-long project led by two Taiwanese families reshaped and built the economic environment of Vietnam's financial capital. The promoters had a long-term vision and left very substantial capital invested for a very long time. This allowed them to follow a master plan that was resource efficient, economically attractive, and environmentally friendly (largely due to major up-front investments in power and water infrastructure). This project was promoted by industrialists with a system view and patient capital, as compared to governments with limited execution capability or real estate investors with limited capital and a shorter time horizon. The dilemma in the case is about whether or not to partner with an outside retail real estate firm in order to reduce execution and lease-up risk in a proposed new shopping mall; or whether to go it alone with the promoters's own capital doing it the promoter's own way. This expands into a discussion of the same historic choices in the project, and whether the promoters realized a below market return for their methodology. The project is quite successful and transformational today, so the opposite question can also be drawn out: is this the preferred means for promoting multiple new sustainable and competitive cities around the world, with long-view private promoters in lieu of government alone and in lieu of real estate developers alone?

    Keywords: Urban Development; Infrastructure; Real Estate Industry; Viet Nam;


    Macomber, John, and Dawn H. Lau. "Phu My Hung." Harvard Business School Case 213-098, February 2013. (Revised February 2014.)  View Details
  24. King Abdullah Economic City in 2009: Population Drivers and Cash Flow

    John D. Macomber

    CEO of high profile new economic city in Saudi Arabia must decide how to allocate limited investment funds across projects under duress. Issues include understanding core economic drivers, planning infrastructure investment and return, attracting multinationals, energy policy, sustainability, urban planning, government incentives and regulations. Students must allocate limited funds, or accept outside investors at distress terms, with respect to city center, retail, resort, residential, education, utilities, commercial sale or leased land, worker housing, and a potential seaport.

    Keywords: Urban Development; Infrastructure; Real Estate Industry; Saudi Arabia;


    Macomber, John D. "King Abdullah Economic City in 2009: Population Drivers and Cash Flow." Harvard Business School Case 213-095, February 2013.  View Details
  25. Masdar and Tianjin: Eco-Cities

    John D. Macomber

    Compares Masdar City and Tianjin Eco-City, two high profile "sustainable cities." Each showcases technological and financial innovation. Is it real? Is it replicable and defensible? The case is intended to introduce main concepts and tradeoffs with respect to rapid urbanization, new cities, sustainable cities, and urban planning and infrastructure for efficient use of resources. Both of these developments have attracted significant government support as well as major private sector financial interest. Both of the sponsoring entities intend to use the lessons learned to help them to be influential in future new cities in other venues. The case looks at the basic economics of this level of development and poses questions about the costs, benefits, and uncertainties, by comparing conditions and intentions of each project. The ability to distinguish what is really worthy of being called an "eco-city" is explored, as is the likelihood of a single project financial payback from the deployment of many of the very exciting technologies.

    Keywords: Technological Innovation; Business Model; Development Economics; Urban Development; Cash Flow; Project Finance; Competitive Advantage; Environmental Sustainability; City; Infrastructure;


    Macomber, John D. "Masdar and Tianjin: Eco-Cities." Harvard Business School Case 211-064, January 2011.  View Details
  26. IDFC India: Infrastructure Investment Intermediaries

    John D. Macomber and Viraal Balsari

    Indian financial intermediary matching international capital to local infrastructure decides how to balance range of services, risk-adjusted return, margin pressure, and nation building. IDFC was chartered with partial ownership from the Indian government to help evaluate policy and be a model for how private finance could be attracted to public infrastructure. As the nation and company grow, the firm also grows and embarks on a strategy of rapid expansion, offering a wide new range of financial products and participating in many aspects of the supply chain. Teaching questions include revisiting the original mission, contemplating the reduced margins and increased risks that come with entering a number of domains that already have established incumbents, and the trade-offs between maximizing shareholder return (for example through investments in full tariff power projects in rich cities) and maximizing the benefit to the nation (for example through subsidized tariff water projects in poor states).

    Keywords: Investment; Infrastructure; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mission and Purpose; State Ownership; Business and Government Relations; Business and Shareholder Relations; Partners and Partnerships; Financial Services Industry; India;


    Macomber, John D., and Viraal Balsari. "IDFC India: Infrastructure Investment Intermediaries." Harvard Business School Case 210-050, June 2010. (Revised September 2013.)  View Details
  27. Young Presidents' Organization

    Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, John D. Macomber and David Chen

    The board of Young Presidents' Organization needs to decide on the future of its Networks Initiative, designed to connect its geographically dispersed membership base through 60 different interest-based networks. So far, one half of these networks have been considered successful, and now the board needs to decide what to do to make the remainder successful. Two options were considered. The first option, called "broad networks," focused on developing weaker ties and entailed keeping the initiative intact but funding it better, by allowing outside sponsors to provide the funds. The second option, called "deep networks," focused on developing strong ties and entailed scaling down the number of networks and providing them with support to encourage deep network formation, all funded internally.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Governing and Advisory Boards; Leadership Development; Growth and Development Strategy; Organizations; Social and Collaborative Networks;


    Piskorski, Mikolaj Jan, John D. Macomber, and David Chen. "Young Presidents' Organization." Harvard Business School Case 709-444, April 2009.  View Details
  28. Design Creates Fortune: 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard

    John D. Macomber and Griffin James

    A real estate developer assesses its ability to capture the benefits of investing in LEED Platinum, Vedic Design, and EnergyStar components in new buildings. The building at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard in Rockville, Maryland is said to be the healthiest building in the National Capital Region. Does this matter? Can the developer realize higher rents because of this? The developer performs a detailed cost-benefit analysis of energy-saving measures that overlap and reduce their cumulative benefit. They consider the impact of these measures in combination with Vedic design features (aka Vastu) on the overall health, productivity, and business success of building occupants. “Green leases” are discussed as the developer tries to establish a leasing strategy that reflects these benefits and associated cost savings. The case takes a deep look at many of the critical on-the-ground issues involved with innovative real estate development.

    Keywords: Buildings and Facilities; Cost vs Benefits; Energy Conservation; Construction; Investment; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Leasing; Renting or Rental; Value Creation; Real Estate Industry; Maryland;


    Macomber, John D., and Griffin James. "Design Creates Fortune: 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard." Harvard Business School Case 210-070, March 2010. (Revised May 2010.)  View Details
  29. CityCenter (A): Vision and Design

    A. Eugene Kohn, John D. Macomber and Ben Creo

    CityCenter is a $9 billion project for MGM MIRAGE. The project's star architects have a major disagreement about a critical design issue. Bill Smith, head of the MGM MIRAGE Design Group, must resolve this issue to the satisfaction of all the project's stakeholders. This case explores many issues in the construction of large-scale buildings: how to envision such a project, how to manage the architects, how different designs add value, and what criteria matter in resolving a dispute between designers. The case also explores the construction costs and revenue benefits of having two buildings built with significant leaning away from vertical.

    Keywords: Buildings and Facilities; Cost vs Benefits; Design; Construction; Projects; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Conflict Management; Value Creation;


    Kohn, A. Eugene, John D. Macomber, and Ben Creo. "CityCenter (A): Vision and Design." Harvard Business School Case 209-052, January 2009. (Revised June 2014.)  View Details
  30. CityCenter (B): Economics and Delivery

    A. Eugene Kohn, John D. Macomber and Ben Creo

    Bill Smith is informed by his general contractor that a key component of the Aria Resort is going to be delayed. Aria is the centerpiece of CityCenter: a $9 billion complex and a bet-the-firm decision for MGM Mirage. Smith must make a decision as to whether to force the general contractor to complete construction or to have the MGM Design Group take over this piece of the construction. The case also looks at the economics of the CityCenter project and discusses the organizational underpinnings needed to make a massive construction process a success.

    Keywords: Buildings and Facilities; Decision Choices and Conditions; Construction; Finance; Organizational Structure; Projects; Complexity;


    Kohn, A. Eugene, John D. Macomber, and Ben Creo. "CityCenter (B): Economics and Delivery." Harvard Business School Supplement 209-094, January 2009. (Revised June 2014.)  View Details
  31. CityCenter (C): Turmoil and Choices

    John D. Macomber

    "CityCenter (C)" follows the (A) and (B) cases chronologically. The (C) case explores the decisions facing MGM MIRAGE following a lawsuit by partner Dubai World and suspension of Dubai World's cash contributions to the project in early 2009. Issues include the discussion of activity by secured lenders and other involved financial actors, like Carl Icahn and James Packer, as well as MGM MIRAGE major stockholder Kirk Kerkorian. The firm considers various options and remedies with respect to the claim by Dubai World. "CityCenter (C)" can serve as an in-class handout to advance class discussion of the (A) and (B) cases to encompass events as they unfolded.

    Keywords: Lawsuits and Litigation; Private Equity; Games, Gaming, and Gambling; Decisions; Partners and Partnerships; Conflict and Resolution; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Nevada;


    Macomber, John D. "CityCenter (C): Turmoil and Choices." Harvard Business School Supplement 210-066, February 2010. (Revised June 2014.)  View Details
  32. CityCenter (D): Financial Crisis, Grand Opening, and a New Paradigm

    John D. Macomber and Griffin James

    "CityCenter (D)" follows the (A), (B), and (C) cases with subsequent chronological events through CityCenter's grand opening in December 2009 and financial results through March 2010. The case includes a simple valuation exercise intended to explore CEO Jim Murren's options as he seeks to avoid an MGM MIRAGE bankruptcy. The (D) case presents Murren with the choice of selling the Borgata casino in New Jersey or receiving an ownership stake in CityCenter itself. Students will draw on EBITDA comparables and projections to complete a simple valuation analysis to take a position on which asset to sell. "CityCenter (D)" can serve as an in-class exercise or homework assignment to follow discussion of the (C) case.

    Keywords: Insolvency and Bankruptcy; Private Equity; Games, Gaming, and Gambling; Decision Choices and Conditions; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Nevada; New Jersey;


    Macomber, John D., and Griffin James. "CityCenter (D): Financial Crisis, Grand Opening, and a New Paradigm." Harvard Business School Supplement 210-067, February 2010. (Revised June 2014.)  View Details
  33. The StarNight Hotel Construction Bid: Real Time Competition on Schedule, Scope, and Cost

    John D. Macomber

    The case is intended for use with the HBS Educational Technology Group "Construction Bidding Simulation." Material that can be taught includes quantity survey methodology (from the case); analyzing preliminary estimated costs per building trade (from the discussion questions); playing the multiparty real time competitive bid simulation to receive and process market costs; and debriefing on which bids should be accepted and why. Discussion points include what criteria to use in making the decision, how to process subcontractor bids, and how to award contracts. Many of the issues can be extended from construction into any bidding situation and any industry with multiple subconsultants or vendors.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Construction; Cost; Contracts; Bids and Bidding; Real Estate Industry;


    Macomber, John D. "The StarNight Hotel Construction Bid: Real Time Competition on Schedule, Scope, and Cost." Harvard Business School Case 209-067, November 2008.  View Details
  34. Disaster in April: The Obligations of Kelly Construction

    John D. Macomber, Christopher M. Gordon and Ben Creo

    A construction company experiences a crane accident with multiple fatalities. The CEO, a client, and an employee must make choices to meet the company's obligations. Set in 2006, the case looks at the choices faced by board members of a museum that is an important client and that is faced with a completion deadline and of a key employee who has other offers of employment and is negotiating a stay-put bonus. The rights and interests of the surety company that provided the construction bond are also interwoven. The protagonist is the CEO of a multi-generational family business who must now negotiate with these parties and then decide whether to attempt to raise new capital, declare bankruptcy, or try to lead a controlled wind-down. The case explores crisis management, decisions by principals operating in the zone of insolvency, construction contract types, the limits of recourse available from construction bonds, roles of board members, calculation of an employee stay-put bonus pool, subcontractor and vendor communication, and reputational issues around bankruptcy or closure of a closely held family business. Analytical tools include contract status report, contractor balance sheet, and stay-put bonus pool.

    Keywords: Business Exit or Shutdown; Family Business; Insolvency and Bankruptcy; Governing and Advisory Boards; Compensation and Benefits; Contracts; Crisis Management; Construction Industry;


    Macomber, John D., Christopher M. Gordon, and Ben Creo. "Disaster in April: The Obligations of Kelly Construction." Harvard Business School Case 209-099, January 2009. (Revised April 2009.)  View Details
  35. A Slice of the Pie: Ruby Collins and Tenants in Common

    John D. Macomber and Kristian Peterson

    A securitized small real estate investment vehicle fails and the many individual owners have to decide how to manage or dispose of the asset. This case follows Ruby Collins, a small investor, through the logic of Section 1031 Like Kind Exchanges as well as the consideration of Tenant in Common ownership. Tenancy in Common has some attractive aspects but its regulation falls between a security and a real estate investment. The risk and control characteristics also vary. This case explores both the valuation of the property and the logistical issues around managing it, and also the relationships between individuals who now find themselves business partners with no prior familiarity with each other.

    Keywords: Financial Instruments; Investment; Risk Management; Ownership Stake; Partners and Partnerships; Valuation; Real Estate Industry;


    Macomber, John D., and Kristian Peterson. "A Slice of the Pie: Ruby Collins and Tenants in Common." Harvard Business School Case 211-008, January 2011.  View Details
Other Publications and Materials
  1. Follow the Money: What Really Drives Technology Innovation in Construction

    John D. Macomber

    Technology enthusiasts, academics, and software companies remain concerned about the slow pace of innovation in the construction industry. Tools are widely available that seem to provide eminently sensible and clearly apparent improvement to the process of design and construction of buildings and facilities. Why aren't they used? Because the monetary implications are not well considered. This paper explores the real business motivations of the construction and design firms who take on risk and reap reward in technology adoption. If they are motivated by enlightened economic self interest, it's clear why innovation is slow. Interested observers who wish to direct their work to the relevant issues can benefit from considering why and how the economic value of innovations actually flows through the system. Several financial models are proposed for representing those impacts. Innovation will come from other sources following disruptive business models. Four major methodologies promise true innovation—supply chain optimization, knowledge management, 3D design, and wrap-up economic models. These are likely to be adopted by new innovators and not by established firms.

    Keywords: Buildings and Facilities; Technological Innovation; Construction; Design; Performance Improvement; Motivation and Incentives; Knowledge Management; Adoption; Business Model; Capital Structure; Supply Chain;


    Macomber, John D. "Follow the Money: What Really Drives Technology Innovation in Construction." Paper presented at the American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003.  View Details