(May 18): Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell has died at the age of 81 due to complications from a recent illness, according to statements from the two real estate investment trusts (REITs) that he chaired.
Known for his bets on distressed assets and for popularizing the REIT structure in the 1990s, Zell founded the company that was a precursor to Equity Residential and took it public in 1993.
The Chicago property czar also invested in a wide range of businesses including manufacturing, travel, retail, healthcare and energy through Equity Group Investments, the private investment firm that he founded more than 50 years ago.
Zell had a net worth of US$5.2 billion, according to Forbes. In 2007,he sold Equity Office Properties to Blackstone Inc for US$39 billion in one of the largest real estate deals ever.
Soon after, he took media giant Tribune Co private in a US$8.2 billion highly leveraged deal that saddled the company with too much debt.
Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection a year later during the global financial crisis after advertising revenue tumbled as more readers began getting their news online.
Zell had famously dubbed the acquisition a "deal from hell".