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Papers, Web firms need 'a new deal,' Zell says

Publication Date: 
April 06, 2007
Los Angeles Times
David Streitfeld

Sam Zell, chairman of the board of Equity International, spoke to a full house at Stanford Law School about the role of governance in the public equity markets. His talk, called "Make Me an Offer': Sam Zell and the $39-Billion Buyout of Equity Office Properties," was sponsored by the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance.

The LA Times reported:

He told his audience of Stanford Law School students that he liked serving on boards that were "pretty noisy," and where the directors tended to display "insufficient regard for the chairman."

"The more times I hear no one has ever done this before, the more likely I am to endorse the idea," he said.

But at a reception before and a Q&A session after his talk, most students wanted to talk about the Tribune deal. The Chicago company's holdings include the Los Angeles Times, KTLA-TV Channel 5 and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Zell tried to steer clear of the subject but couldn't resist tackling some questions. He said he had been in the news business for less than a week, so he wasn't a genius at it yet. Zell has made a fortune worth an estimated $4.5 billion by turning around distressed assets.

Told that many people didn't think that newspapers were a good business because of declining circulation and falling ad revenues, he fired back: "A lot of people didn't think the railcar business was a good investment. I made a quarter-billion dollars. A lot of people didn't think container leasing was a good investment. I made a half-billion. Should I go on?"