Sam Zell Is America's 6th-Richest Real Estate Mogul
There were very few surprises on Forbes 400 list, which the financial magazine published yesterday. Among American real estate moguls, Chicago’s own Sam Zell is the sixth-wealthiest, and 107th overall.
The 74-year-old, tart-tongued Sam’s current net worth is $4.9B, amassed mostly from real estate and private equity. His recent deals indicate Sam isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In July, his Equity Group Investments bought a majority share in Ardent Health Services from Ventas, a transaction that valued Ardent at $475M and sent Ventas stock soaring after the announcement.
Sam’s $112M sale of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago to Laurence Geller in June had jaws dropping. Sam paid a then-record $95M for the 188-key hotel in 2011. The price per room in the sale averaged $595k, a record for a Chicago hotel sale, and made this one of the top Chicago hotel sales of 2015.
That same month, Sam sold Illinois Center, through his Equity Commonwealth REIT, to AmTrust Properties for $376M. He placed the buildings at 111 E Wacker and 233 N Michigan on the market in April, and analysts predicted the buildings could have fetched as much as $425M in a hot downtown office market. Sam and Equity president Dave Helfand took control of Equity Commonwealth last year and announced plans to sell up to $3B in the REIT’s holdings in remote locations, and to capitalize on the current strength of the American real estate market. And capitalize they have. Equity Commonwealth has sold $1.7B in assets this year.
Equity Commonwealth marked Sam’s return to the office market after selling Equity Office Properties trust in 2007, for $39B. He even found success in the stock market. His Signature Group Holdings went public in April and changed its name to Real Industry. The company makes usable aluminum from scrap. As of today its stock is valued at $8.64 a share. With all these irons in the fire, Sam hasn’t been this busy since before the Great Recession, and he’s taking full advantage of the current strength of the market.