Billionaire, Equity Residential founder Sam Zell dies at 81

Zell was an American real estate investor and businessman. He was the chairman of Equity Group Investments, a private equity firm he founded in the 1960s.

Billionaire, Equity Residential founder Sam Zell dies at 81

Sam Zell, the founder of Equity Residential, and the 511th richest person in the entire world, died aged 81.

Zell founded Equity Residential, a Chicago-based company (NYSE: EQR), in 1968. According to the company's history, it began in 1968 when Zell and another University of Michigan student managed an apartment building in Ann Arbor for rent.

In 1993, the company went public. It now has a market capitalization of over $23 billion.

Zell was the chairman of Equity Residential when he died. David Neithercut has been named as the new chairman of the company.

Forbes' most recent list of billionaires ranked Zell at No. 511. With an estimated value of $5.2 billion, Zell is ranked 511 in Forbes' latest list. Zell ranked fourth in Forbes' list of U.S. Billionaires.

Equity Now has investments in Real Estate, Manufacturing, Retail, Travel, Health Care, and Energy.

Sherm Miller of the CU Real Estate Center said in 2014 that Sam Zell was "arguably the greatest investor of all times" before Zell addressed a University of Colorado Real Estate Forum.

Sherm pointed out that in the mid 2000s, Zell owned a substantial position in Denver’s Central Business District.

According to Denver Business Journal, the company sold approximately $1.4 billion worth of multifamily properties in Denver metro to Connecticut-based Starwood Capital Group. Equity returned to the market in 2018, and now owns nine properties from Lafayette to Castle Rock. Skyhouse Denver is a 25-story apartment building in downtown Denver with 354 apartments.

Equity Residential's CEO and president, Mark J. Parrell, highlighted a continuing interest in Denver during the company's earnings call for its first quarter on April 27.

Parrell said in a press release that the world had lost "one of its greatest entrepreneurs and investors." "Sam's insatiable intellect and passion for deals created some of most dynamic companies in public real estate."

Equity Residential highlighted some of Zell's philanthropic efforts, including the Zell Lurie Institute and Zell Fellows Program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. The Samuel Zell & Robert Lurie Real Estate Center is located at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. And the Zell Entrepreneurship Program in Israel at Reichman University.