Sam Zell Takes Manhattan--For Cheap

Sam Zell
Sam Zell

Look out, New York. He could do more damage than King Kong.

Sam Zell, the foul-mouthed Chicago real estate developer and much-derided owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, is on a Manhattan apartment-building buying binge. Just days after one of his companies, Equity Residential, scooped up three apartment buildings at a 50 percent discount from distressed developer Harry Macklowe, it announced plans to construct 111 apartments and around 10,000 square feet of retail space at the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and 23rd Street in the heart of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

Zell, known by the sobriquet "grave dancer," earned his infamous reputation by preying on the real-estate errors of others. He began managing apartments as a student at the University of Michigan in the early 1960s. A decade later, he made his first killing, acquiring $3 billion in real estate after the market crash of 1973.