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Sam Zell up close

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By Cynthia Lee

Published Jan 1, 2008 9:00 AM


Sam Zell, the real estate magnate and new owner/CEO of the Tribune Company that publishes the Los Angeles Times, has a softer side that is not usually part of his public persona. Let's just say it's not what the iconoclastic, hard-driving, blunt-talking, gravel-voiced Zell is best known for.

art

Photo by Todd Cheney

Coming in at No. 52 with $6 billion on Forbes' 2007 list of the 400 richest Americans, Zell proudly calls himself "the grave dancer" for his fortune-making coup during the 1970s recession when he snapped up more distressed properties in the country than anyone else. As a world-class grave dancer, Zell said, "You gotta dance around the edge. But you don’t fall in."

Zell, who runs a vast global distributed real estate enterprise that is building low- and medium-income housing on a massive scale in emerging countries like Mexico, Brazil and China, has rarely fallen in.

His hard-boiled exterior, however, showed a minute crack when he chatted with Dean Judy Olian of the UCLA Anderson School recently in front of an audience at the Hammer Museum. On a nearby tabletop were a few of his expensive holiday "toys," original artworks that have become collector's items. He commissions these each year to give to some 675 people on his year-end gift list.

Read the complete story in UCLA Today.

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