Sam Zell is known as a cantankerous-but-shrewd deal-maker. The 75-year-old mogul has dabbled in a wide range of industries, notably as the owner of Tribune Co. He also had a two-year stint as chief owner of the Chicago Cubs. Zell famously told a reporter who worked for one of his papers “f--- you” in a public forum when asked whether coverage would be softened under his stewardship.
As a real estate investor, Zell has found opportunities in everything from office buildings and apartments to mobile home parks, and has a reputation for knowing when to buy and when to divest, which is how he got his nickname "the Grave Dancer." But Zell downplays that reputation. Regarding his famous 2007 sale of his Equity Office REIT to Blackstone for $39B, Zell wrote in his memoir it had more to do with the stratospheric price offered than with the kind of oracular timing of the market with which he has been widely credited.
Zell spent much of the post-2008 real estate collapse buying assets. In 2014, he became chairman of Equity Commonwealth REIT, which spent the following two years in sell mode. Equity Commonwealth is now sitting on $2.1B in cash and looking for dislocation in the market where it can create value. — Scott Klocksin