Published On: Tue, Nov 4th, 2014

Real Estate Mogul Sam Zell Says Suits, Ties and Academics Are Bullshit

Sam Zell / Getty


Sam Zell, in his annual talk at Penn State, urged students to drop the “bullshit of suits, ties and academics.” The Chicago-born owner of three of the biggest public real estate companies has a fortune of $4 billion. Zell refuses to act fancy and put on airs, and wandered into the talk wearing blue jeans and spoke directly in a speech liberally sprinkled with expletives, as reported by the Daily Pennsylvanian.

He says he remembers the days when real estate investors had no computers, “Guys stayed up all night making 10 year projections. Then came the HP 12. Most of you don’t even know what the fuck that is.”

Zell’s firm, Equity Group Investments had its roots when Zell made his first real estate investments with his roomate Bob Lurie after graduating from Michigan. By the time he graduated from law school, the pair already managed 4, 000 apartments in 40-50 buildings. He called law school, “the biggest fucking bore that ever existed, ” but after all, Zell wouldn’t need it, given his success in real estate.

Zell lives a colorful life and is head of a Jewish motorcycle club in Chicago. He calls himself a “career opportunist” and a “lone evangelist.” He says making high-risk investments in emerging markets helped, and is setting his sights on India. When it comes to conducting business, Zell said, “there is no greater negotiation tactic than understanding what the other guy wants.”

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