A crowd of over 150 ULI Chicago members, including young professionals, local leaders, and ULI Foundation Governors gathered on April 7th for Chicago’s Giving Back Event sponsored by the ULI Foundation. The Chicago event featured Sam Zell, Chairman of Equity Investments, interviewed by Randy Rowe, Chairman and Founder of Green Courte Partners, LLC. In his trademark manner, Zell spoke of his philosophies on investment, offered career advice and answered questions from young professionals in the audience.
He candidly discussed his beginnings in real estate and how his real estate investment strategy actually helped him transition to more corporate-heavy investments. The commercial real estate market was losing its attraction in the 1980s, so he began to look at non-real estate investments. Zell realized that when analyzing real estate, one looks for barriers of entry, opportunities, scale and replacement cost. This was not so different from the corporate world.
For the benefit of the younger audience, Zell highlighted what he looks for in potential job candidates. It’s not so much about IQ, he explained, but about energy level, commitment, desire, hunger and curiosity. To be successful, Zell says, you must have instinct and focus in order to determine worthwhile opportunities. He says over the years, his team has developed a fine skill of rejection. This has helped him to focus his time on deals that have a higher probability of success.
Zell also discussed the culture of his company, Equity Investments. They focus on information sharing, connection and transparency. Zell believes that this culture is incredibly important and connected to his success. As one young professional summarized, “I really enjoyed Zell’s candor, wit and practical view of the business.”
The ULI Foundation is hosting the VIP Speaker Series to celebrate 45 years of sharing best practices, development and education. The guest speakers are some of the most influential leaders in real estate and land use. The ULI Foundation hopes the presentations will give young industry professionals exposure to the inside stories of how developments really happen, and why. The Giving Back series is a way for Foundation Governors to “give back” to tomorrow’s leaders. Including Chicago, there are 3 other host cities: Dallas, Los Angeles, and Boston.
Authored by Dion Hickles, Ardmore Associates