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Samuel “Sam” Zell is a businessman born on September 27, 1941, in Chicago. In 1969 he founded a private investment firm known as Equity Group Investments (EGI) and serves as the chairman of the firm. Most of his investment portfolio includes industries such as communication and transportation, energy, and logistic. He is considered a pioneer in modern commercial real estate industry.
Sam completed his graduation from the University of Michigan. Zell’s entrepreneurial journey started from his college itself. Zell and his friend Robert Lurie used to manage students apartment of different landlords. They started with managing fifteen houses and by the end of the graduation in 1966 they were managing 4000 apartments. Zell and Lurie cumulatively owned around 100-200 apartments. Before moving to Chicago, Zell sold his share of property management business to Lurie.
He started working as a lawyer after his graduation but continued it only for a week. Zell decided to a make investment with his senior partner, they purchased an apartment building in Toledo. Zell founded the predecessor Equity Investment Group that was to develop into Equity Group Investments in 1967.
After two years, Robert Lurie joined him. They started from a small firm and became big enterprises and continued growth till Robert Lurie died in 1990 due to colon cancer. Equity Investment Group was the beginning for three of the largest public real estate companies including Equity Residential, Equity Office Property Trust, and Equity Lifestyle.
In 1990s they entered the public market and Zell was regarded as the founding father of the modern Real Estate Industry. Zell’s Chillmark fund in 1992 owned Jacor Communication, Inc., a successful radio broadcast company that included a television station. In 1999 the company was sold to Clear Channel Communications. In various other industries, Zell has created a number of public and private companies. Blackstone Group purchased Zell’s Equity Office property trust for $39 billion in 2007.
The Tribune Company accepted a Zell’s offer to sponsor the going private transaction of the Chicago Tribune, the Loss Angeles Times, and the company’s other media assets on April 2, 2007. He became the chairman and CEO of the company on December 20, 2007. Zell’s leveraged buyout and because of recession, the Tribune Co. charged for bankruptcy in December 2008. Zell and his partners owned the department store chain Broadway store, mattress company Sealy, the Schwinn bicycle Company, energy company Santa Fe Energy Resources and the drugstore Revco. Zell took over Itel Corporation in 1985.
Sam Zell and his wife have been active philanthropists for education and arts and for the causes in Israel as well.