Exeleon Magazine

AJ Klenk: Leading with Innovation and Philanthropy

AJ Klenk_Exeleon Magazine

Investing in real estate is a popular choice for many reasons. But the real advantage is when one unearths off-market opportunities and realizes value where others cannot see. For this, you need a team that brings an unmatched entrepreneurial approach to the ultra-competitive and sophisticated commercial real estate investment and development industry.

Since 2008, AJ Klenk, along with his companies, Capstone Apartment Partners and Catalyst Capital Partners have been known for their high attention to detail, strong performance, integrity, and ability to produce above market returns for clients and investors. They have been involved in over $4B worth of real estate developments, acquisitions, and transactions across varying asset classes, but specifically the multifamily space..

Owner of Capstone Apartment Partners, the country’s largest privately owned multi-family investment sales brokerage (currently a board member) and now Catalyst Capital Partners, AJ understands the value of building team’s led by individuals with diverse and complementary backgrounds in commercial real estate development, operations, principal investing, property and asset management, capital markets, and brokerage; creating a well-rounded team that brings an entrepreneurial approach to sophisticated investing.

An Exceptional Frontrunner

AJ grew up on 20 acres in the woods in rural Michigan working with his hands daily, both as a hobby and as a job when asked to blaze trails, grade the driveway, maintain the property, etc. This is what first created his entrepreneurial aptitude. “I naturally enjoyed leading my friends and always enjoyed taking command of situations in life, school and work,” recalls AJ.

He was the Vice President of his High School’s Student Council and led multiple sports teams and clubs, including building schools in South America with BuildOn, a NGO he now sits on the Global Board of. His entrance into Commercial Real Estate was through the founding of Capstone Apartment Partners, now the nation’s largest privately-owned multi-housing investment sales brokerage.

AJ now has grown his portfolio to real estate ownership, a restaurant company and now the development company Catalyst Capital Partners. “In all we do, our vision is to put the team before self, have relentless passion for improvement, be driven self-starters, check our ego at the door and embrace the chaos of day-to-day business,” shares this transformational leader.

Over the last 10+ years with Capstone, AJ has led the company’s business development growth from one office and four employees in Charlotte, to fourteen offices and over 100 employees across the country. He is responsible for both Capstone, Catalyst and Built on Hospitality’s (restaurant group) strategic growth plans, new business expansion opportunities, hiring and cultural priorities.

Capstone is now widely recognized and respected as one of the foremost leaders in the multi-family space. Capstone’s family-like culture and “team before self” credo is the source of an immense amount of pride for AJ and indicative of his overall philosophy on life and business.

Journey to Success

While talking about his journey, AJ Klenk shared that it was a lot of exciting uncomfortable situations, a lot of challenges, a lot of new experiences, hard work and bonding amongst colleagues and clients. “I have no large regrets in life or work and try to live every day like it’s my last — with the mindset of if today was my last day on earth, would I be proud of my accomplishments and what would I want to focus on today, knowing it was my last,” he adds.

AJ graduated from The University of Michigan in 2007 with a Master of Science in Biopsychology and Cognitive Science. He is a member of the National Multi-Housing Council and the Urban Land Institute and is active in various other professional and philanthropic roles across the region. He enjoys Michigan sports, volunteering, mentoring, professional development, the outdoors, world travel, overseeing the growth of his hospitality industry businesses in Charlotte, and spending time with his wife Caitlin and two boys.

Throughout his real estate career, AJ has been active in various roles and capacities, including entitlement, acquisitions, development, investment, asset management, property management, brokerage, and project capitalization. His industry experience includes a variety of real estate assignments, development projects, owned assets, investments, and asset transactions totalling over $4B of value and including over 35,000 multi-family units.

Realizing Value Where Others cannot

AJ ‘s vast industry experience, an extensive professional network, and an unyielding entrepreneurial approach, along with colleagues from Catalyst Capital helps in identifying attractive investment opportunities that few others can. They seek to identify well located, high-quality development opportunities that present attractive future opportunities to create value through entitling, developing, renovating, or repositioning by leveraging the unique attributes and advantages of their firm structure and resources.

With over five decades of residential, multi-family, and commercial real estate experience, his team has ownership interests in 1,900+ residential units and over 400,000 SF of office/retail with an aggregate value of $400MM.

Catalyst Capital Partners specializes in the acquisition, entitlement, repositioning, and development of opportunistic residential, office, mixed-use, and retail projects and properties. They target investment opportunities in the Southeast region’s leading high-growth markets, where many of the country’s most compelling population and economic growth dynamics exist. Catalyst’s Principals have a combined experience in the acquisition and disposition of 50,000+ multi-family units, totaling $6B+ in value across the primary, secondary, and tertiary markets of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

Words of Advice

“Simple rules. Treat others as they would want to be treated. Never act or believe you are bigger than the Team. Give, give, give…and then you shall receive. Be humble, be forgiving, be open-minded, outwork and outthink the person next to you,” he advises.

AJ believes that a transformational leader is someone who looks at the status quo and attempts to improve upon that creatively and productively. Create efficiencies, infuse technology, improve productivity, improve the industry or the subject matter with creative thinking. “Being open minded to new, creative ideas from my team and to not pretend I have all the answers,” adds AJ.

Talking about his journey, AJ shares that his young age has been a hurdle when he was starting out in industries with seasoned older professionals. He expressed what a joy it is to grow and inspire leaders. He has also learned how rewarding it is to help improve the lives of those around him both in their lives and work.

Looking Forward

Catalyst will start 3-5 new, $40-60M development projects per year and do so opportunistically and with purpose. They will continue to seek opportunities to give back to the local communities in which they develop and to those on their team.

On a personal front, AJ Klenk plans to do even more on the philanthropic side – whether that be building additional schools in remote 3rd world villages like they are in Nicaragua in Q1 2022, growing their 3 separate 501(c)(3)’s or investing in developing communities in Honduras or South Africa through impact investing opportunities. AJ anticipates doing more in the technology and Prop/Fintech and expanding his horizons there to benefit all of his businesses and more.

Read Digital Version.

Visit Catalyst Capital Partners Website.

Read Previous

Amy Cherry Taylor: Dedicated to Surpassing Clients’ Expectations

Read Next

Audwin F. Levasseur: Empowering Families to Fulfil their Financial Goals