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Real Estate Mogul Sam Zell On #MeToo, Trump And Real Estate

Real estate billionaire Sam Zell took to the stage at NAREIT's REITWeek conference Wednesday with NAREIT CEO Steven Wechsler and offered his thoughts on real estate, President Donald Trump and women in the real estate profession.

Regarding the #MeToo movement, Zell was true to his reputation as a salty public speaker.


"I never promoted a woman because she was a woman," Zell told the audience after being asked about “gender diversity, women in the workforce, #MeToo and everything else,” by Wechsler.

Zell continued: "I never demoted a woman because she was a woman. My issue is what do you do, what do you produce, how do you interrelate to the rest of the business.

"I don't think there's ever been a, 'We gotta get more pussy on the block, OK?" Zell said.

Bloomberg reported that Zell elicited "gasps and laughter from the hundreds at the gathering." Real Estate Weekly called it a "successful attempt to draw laughs from the mostly male audience," but CNBC said that there weren't many laughs, the audience got "very silent." 

In any case, Zell added, "Those things can get me in trouble, right?” and made a passing reference to Steve Wynn, who recently stepped down as CEO of Wynn Resorts after a series of sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations.

Zell has a history of hiring and promoting women within his companies. For example, Zell’s Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. CEO is Marguerite Nader, and Ventas Inc. CEO Debra Cafaro has credited Zell with encouraging her over the course of her career, Bloomberg reported.

In the NAREIT on-stage interview by Wechsler, Zell had much more to say about the economy, the real estate market and the president. 

Zell said he believes the Fed will eventually begin rolling back its quantitative easing measures, but slowly — the process might take another 10 years.

Regarding the length of the economic cycle, he said that “in early ’16, I felt we were in the eighth inning. Trump getting elected, I think that led to extra innings."

He did not, however, laud the president very strongly, offering a grade of "incomplete" for his first 500 days. Even so, he praised the president's judicial nominations, efforts to change the tax code and his foreign policies. He also said that Hillary Clinton would have been a much worse president.

In a separate interview on Thursday with MarketWatch, Zell said that there is "a multifamily market that is catching new supply for the first time, frankly, since before the Great Recession."

Over the next 12 to 18 months, Zell said, there is going to be an oversupply particularly in the suburban markets "that [is] going to make multifamily less attractive from a bottom line point of view than it has been up to now."

Zell also characterized the U.S. retail market as overbuilt, "far in excess of anyone else in the world." Regional malls and small strip centers will continue to do well, but everything in between has suffered, he said.

Related Topics: Sam Zell, NAREIT, NAREIT REITWeek, #metoo