Alan Smolinisky (born November 28, 1979) is an American entrepreneur/investor who began his career in commercial real estate in the late 1990s while attending the University of Southern California. Smolinisky partnered with his landlord Brian Chen after observing a large shortage of student housing around USC. Together through their company Conquest Student Housing, they went on to build and renovate many buildings around the campus, eventually becoming the largest provider of private student housing at USC, and later at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Conquest became so dominant at USC that the University sued them under the Sherman Antitrust Act for "monopolizing the student housing market around USC’s University Park Campus".
The company was sold to a private equity firm and publicly traded real estate investment trust in summer 2008 for $205 million. After a brief retirement, Smolinisky and Chen moved away from real estate and into public securities investment using funds received from the sale of their company.
Smolinisky and Chen are value investors, an investment paradigm that derives from the ideas on investment that Benjamin Graham and David Dodd began teaching at Columbia Business School in 1928 that focuses on acquiring assets at less than their intrinsic value. Today, the movement is most closely associated with Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren E. Buffett and Vice Chairman Charles T. Munger.
Today, Smolinisky and Chen manage their own personal capital (approximately $600 million in total assets) from a small office in Pacific Palisades, California. Investments include retail shopping centers in Los Angeles, CA, a portfolio of 4,000 units of affordable housing across 15 states, publicly traded securities holdings, and a capital equipment leasing business.
In December 2012, Smolinisky purchased the Palisadian-Post, a weekly subscription based newspaper that serves Pacific Palisades, California. The Palisadian-Post was founded in 1928 and has been published every Thursday since its founding. A 2013 front-page Los Angeles Times profile of Smolinisky quoted him as saying "Pacific Palisades is my favorite place on Earth, and the Palisadian-Post is my favorite newspaper. I have a moral obligation to make sure this newspaper is published every Thursday for as long as I live." Smolinisky shut down the money losing printing business, replaced most of the staff, and sold the paper's longtime building due to the printing operation being outsourced. Many long time community members were upset with the abrupt changes. In November 2013, the newspaper moved into new headquarters in the Palisades Village. The paper currently has 19 staff members and over 5,000 paid subscribers. A one-year subscription costs $69.
Smolinisky was raised in Pacific Palisades by immigrant parents from Argentina. Smolinisky frequently says he was put on earth to be in business and allocate capital. Smolinisky’s interest in business and investing began as a young child with entrepreneurial ventures ranging from selling lollipops to classmates in elementary school to organizing teen dances and after prom parties. From a very early age, Smolinisky became a voracious reader of newspapers, financial reports, trade magazines and books about business tycoons and reportedly spends over five hours per day reading. He graduated in three years from the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music in 2001. In 2010, Smolinisky married Caroline Sukits from Lafayette, Indiana. They have one son and two daughters. Their son Charlie was named after Charlie Munger. They currently live in Pacific Palisades.
According to public records, Smolinisky bought two adjacent parcels of land in Pacific Palisades totaling 2.15 acres for $10.8 million in September 2010 from professional baseball player Jason Kendall and built a new 18,000 square foot estate that includes a car museum. Federal Aviation Administration records show Smolinisky as the registered owner of a 14-passenger Gulfstream GIV-SP aircraft. In August 2015 at Monterey Car Week, an electric GEM car outfitted as a 1970s Land Rover Defender designed by Smolinisky and neighbor Sir Lucian Grainge won the award for Rueful Brittania (Best British Car) at the annual Concours d'LeMons.
Smolinisky often speaks of his dislike of dynastic wealth. Inspired by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates' Giving Pledge, he and his wife created a trust that provides for 90% of their estate to go to charity upon their death. Smolinisky serves on the board of directors of the ACLU of Southern California as well as Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention organization founded by Jesuit priest Fr. Gregory Boyle.