"40 cents out of every dollar we spend we’re borrowing. That’s a prescription for disaster."
"All my life I’ve wanted to test my limits."
"All that matters in the end is the bottom line…"
"An entrepreneur is a guy who thinks outside of the box, a person who does not accept the conventional. He constantly asks “what if?”, “could I?”, or “should I?”."
"A policy that doesn’t acknowledge reality has never succeeded in the history of the world."
"As an investor, I look at real estate as an area where we’re dealing with hard assets and brick and mortar. There may be a lot of people who get a lot of joy out of virtual assets, but somehow or other, there’s a great deal of comfort that comes from being able to see and touch and understand."
"A tie cuts off the blood supply to the brain."
"Deals work when they have owners. There are not a lot of good companies that are rapidly turning into bad companies by virtue of inaction, inattention, lack of capital expenditures, and, most important of all, lack of owners. Deals don’t work when in fact the guy calling the shots does not have his proverbial… I guess I was going to say, ‘tit in the wringer,’ but be that as it may, they don’t work."
"Entrepreneurs don’t fail – things sometimes just don’t work out. But, that’s it."
"Entrepreneurs have lots of energy – they are very, very close to ADD!"
"Fear and courage are very closely related. Anybody who does not understand fear does not know courage."
"I am somebody who has been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to test my limits. And I would remind you philosophically that my definition of a fool is somebody who has reached his limits. Almost by definition, whatever goals you set, you need to constantly readjust them so that at no time do you reach your goals before your time is up."
"I challenge conventional wisdom and I continually test my limits."
"I clearly have no intention of being a bondholder. If I’m going to make an investment, I’m going to be an owner of equity." [In July 1991]
"If the country isn’t growing we don’t need any more real estate. If the country is growing, we’re going to need more real estate."
"I have a lot of experience running and managing highly leveraged institutions."
"I like what I do, and society rewards it very highly. Theoretical physicists solve problems, too, but society doesn’t necessarily commend their endeavours so highly."
"I look for people who in no way, shape, or form can be intimidated. My greatest fear is somebody telling me what they think I might want to hear." [On what he looks for in hiring people]
"I’m a guy who has an extraordinarily good time. I’m a guy who really focuses not being anywhere I don’t want to be. And not doing anything I don’t want to do."
"I’m not a newspaper guy, I’m a businessman."
"In periods were employees are tough to get, the big company has the advantage of creating a sense of security."
"In the end we live and die by revenue."
"It is lonely being an entrepreneur. Often, you turn around and ask: where is everybody?"
"I’ve become somewhat of a pessimist. And anyone who knows Sam, the one thing that Sam has always been is the giant optimist. The bottom of every market Sam is buying stuff. And I had this ephiphany and I said the problem is if my assessment of the realities are such – then everything is massively too expensive." [In October 2012]
"I’ve been in the real estate business for 40 years and I’ve always been fascinated by its creativity, its evolutions. I probably have been a significant factor in this most recent evolution revolution."
"I was dancing on the skeletons of other people’s mistakes."
"Liquidity = value."
"Look for opportunities with pent-up demand."
"Mobile home parks have the most opportunity. It is the greatest business since sliced bread." [In April 2003]
"Money talks and bullshit walks."
"My own formula is very simple. It starts and ends with replacement cost because that is the ultimate game. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was the only buyer of real estate in America. [People asked me] ‘How could you buy it?’ How could I project yields? Rents? For me, it came down to these issues: Is the building well built? Is it in a good location? How much less than the cost of replacement is its price? I bought the stuff for 30 cents on the dollar and 40 cents on the dollar." [On finding value in real estate]
"Operate on the condition of no surprises."
"Probably our toughest year in 2008. It’s going to be a shitty year and we’re going to have to do a whole bunch of things to make sure that we don’t get hurt. Number one, it’s manageable. Number two, I have a lot of experience running and managing highly leveraged institutions. And I don’t think this is any different than any of them. I’m not a newspaper guy, I’m a businessman. Therefore all that matters in the end is the bottom line, because as long as we have a bottom line we have a viable newspaper. If we lose the bottom line or erode it significantly, then we’re all going to get buried together. And that ain’t a good deal." [In early 2008]
"Public REITs have a tremendous cost of capital advantage over private real estate owners."
"Salespeople ought to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘Am I hungry? Do I want to make a lot more money and do I want to work a lot harder?’ If the answer to all those questions is ‘yes,’ they’ve got a great future. If they look in the mirror and say, ‘Gee, I’m an order taker and I don’t really want to work harder and I don’t want to do anything,’ then maybe the outlook is bleak. Because part of what we’ve got to do here is make this company aggressive. We’ve got to make everybody go for it. I’m going for it, should everybody else? And particularly a sales force, because in the end we live and die by revenue. And it’s that sales force that we’re depending on the revenue for."
"Sentimentality of an investment leads to lack of discipline."
"That is correct." [On it being supply and demand that makes real estate appreciate, not inflation]
"The definition of a true partner is someone that shares your risk."
"There is one consistent theme, and that is simplicity. I have the ability to simplify a problem and identify a solution." [On his ongoing success]
"The people who brought you leprosy now selling you the cure." [Investment banking advisers are]
"The process of the survival of the fittest will ultimately prevail…" [On the reduction of the amount of REIT’s in America]
"The transaction from hell." [On the takeover of the Tribune Company in December 2007]
"The world always looks nigh on impossible from the perspective of a desk. But once you get out into the world and if you have what I would call the entrepreneurial characteristics, I just think this country still provides a very unique opportunity. [On people always saying they can’t achieve the same things today that Sam Zell has done]
"They should rename the stimulus bill the ‘stick your finger in the dyke bill." [In November 2011]
"True entrepreneurs never fail. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but they never fail."
"Understand the downside."
"We live in a capitalist environment and every time the government interferes, with that environment it exponentially accelerates the problem…"
"We told everyone that our financial objective was to not lose money, and the upside would take care of itself."
"We’ve got to make everybody go for it. I’m going for it, shouldn’t everybody else?"
"Whatever goals you set, you need to constantly readjust them so that at no time do you reach your goals before your time is up."
"When it’s all said and done, the petroleum of the real estate industry has always been capital."
"When you have committees, you have to have meetings, when you have meetings you have to have lunch or dinner or both. Businesses are eroding while the lenders are fighting about where we’re going to have lunch next and dealing with investment bankers and the committees."
"Usually it takes events. It takes something happening that creates an opportunity."
"Ultimately, real estate is all about supply and demand."
"When it’s all said and done – supply and demand."
"When there is no supply, real estate performs very well. Almost without regard, within reason to the economic conditions. When there is over supply, it doesn’t matter what’s going on real estate is going to suffer."
"You can’t legislate morality."
"You know, in Brazil, they sell hotel rooms to investors. They haven’t done that in the United States yet, but maybe somebody’s going to go out and buy a billion dollars worth of condominiums and rent them and then turn it into a REIT. I think there’s a myriad of possibilities." [In 2002]
"You’ve got to face up to reality."