Published On: Thu, Jul 31st, 2014

Sam Zell Looking to Dump Entire $280 Million Australian Portfolio

320 Pitt Street in Sydney

Sam Zell’s CommonWealth REIT has announced that it intends to divest itself of its entire Australian portfolio, worth an estimated $280 million. This according to a report in Australia’s Business Spectator.

The Chicago based real estate firm currently owns eight industrial properties in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and an office building at 320 Pitt Street in Sydney. This marks the second time in the last three years that the company has attempted to sell off its Australian assets. The previous effort failed to bring in the desired amounts from potential bidders.

Earlier this month, CommonWealth sold off its entire stake in Select Income REIT to Government Properties Income Trust for $31.51 a share.

Zell only recently assumed control of CommonWealth after a hostile takeover. It was only just announced that the firm is changing its name to Equity Commonwealth as of August 1. Its ticker symbol will also change to EQC from CWH.

Sam Zell, 72, said in a statement, “This name change reflects a new chapter for the company. In keeping with the other ‘Equity’ companies, Equity CommonWealth will operate with an entrepreneurial culture, where the interests of all stakeholders are aligned, focusing on long-term value creation for Equity Commonwealth’s shareholders.”

The billionaire investor has also made headlines recently for his criticisms of fellow businessman Bill Ackman’s machinations over Herbalife. Akman has gone on record that he believes Herbalife to be nothing more than a grand pyramid scheme.

Zell said that Ackman was out to destroy the diet company just to protect his Pershing Capital’s short position on that company.

He made those comments last week while speaking before the CFA Institute financial analysts seminar in Chicago saying, “I think what Ackman is doing right now with Herbalife — this whole thing sucks. The idea of some guy taking a $2 billion short position and then [a public relations] machine to kind of destroy some company in effect and if successful he’ll get paid for it. That’s a level of [shareholder] activism I’m not a big fan of.”

Known as the distressed asset king as well as “The Grave Dancer” for his ability to find troubled assets and a way to turn a profit on them, Sam Zell made his fortune in real estate. Forbes estimates his current net worth at $4.4 billion.

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