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Sam Zell | In Memoriam


In honor of Sam Zell, real estate legend and trailblazer, we revisit our 2016 conversation about how he built his real estate empire.

As the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland in 1939 as Hitler invaded, Sam’s life path is marked by resilience, controversy, and an insatiable drive to succeed. For our industry, the headline of his career was his tireless advocacy for the REIT model and the institutionalization and the creation of scaled operating platforms that his REITs helped pioneer. 

A well-known spokesperson for the real estate industry as a whole, Sam’s persona as businessman and speaker was as memorable as his transformational impact, which was also not without its controversy. He was a hilarious, outspoken, blue jean wearing, f-bomb dropping, truth teller.

I heard him speak just last month at the Berkeley/Fisher Center for Real Estate Conference at Pebble Beach where he seemed to be the same-Sam but now we know that he was struggling with his cancer. I had the privilege of working with Sam on a search many years ago for the CEO of one of his portfolio companies; that and this interview in his office back in 2016 are certainly highlights of my career.

I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to reflect on his tremendous legacy and his contributions to the industry.


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