Bloomberg Billionaires Index

View profiles for each of the world’s 500 richest people, see the biggest movers, and compare fortunes or track returns.

# 413 Sam Zell $5.78B

Random fact: Wrote "Grave Dancer" article about buying distressed real estate.


Zell is the founder of Equity Group Investments, a Chicago-based investment firm. The closely held business has stakes in publicly traded oil refiner Par Pacific Holdings; oil and gas equipment provider Exterran; and real estate investment trusts Equity Residential, Equity Lifestyle Properties and Equity Commonwealth.

As of :
Last change -$17.0M ( -0.3%)
YTD change +$182M ( +3.3%)
Biggest asset Cash
Country / Region United States
Age 81
Industry Real Estate
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Sam Zell's net worth of $5.78B can buy ...

troy ounces of gold
barrels of crude oil

... and is equivalent to ...

of the GDP of the United States
of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
of the top 200 U.S. executives’ total awarded compensation
of U.S. existing home sales
times the median U.S. household income

Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

Zell owns Chicago-based Equity Group Investments, a closely held investment firm. He is also the co-founder of three real estate investment trusts: Equity Residential, Equity Lifestyle and Equity Commonwealth.

The value of his private equity interests have been included in his cash balance since 2018, along with dividends, market performance, insider transactions and taxes, including proceeds from the sale of Equity Office Properties to the Blackstone Group for $39 billion and his $315 million loss on the buyout of Tribune in 2007.

Zell also holds stakes in publicly traded companies operating in the property, energy and communication industries, which he owns through Delaware-based trusts established for the benefit of his family. The holdings include common units which are convertible into ordinary shares and exclude the net value of the options he holds, which are counted separately. The billionaire also owns an art collection and real estate.

Lesley Cheers, a spokesperson for Zell, declined to comment on the net worth calculation.


Family: Married, 3 children

Sam Zell was born in September 1941. His father, Bernard Zielonka, was working as a grain broker in western Poland in August 1939 when he learned that the Nazis and the Soviet Union had signed a treaty that would allow Germany to invade the country. With his wife and daughter, Zielonka boarded a train heading east the following day.

They traveled through Asia for eighteen months, sailing from Japan to Seattle and arriving in the U.S. in May 1941. The family settled in Chicago and changed their last name to Zell. While an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, Zell started a business that managed student rental apartments. He graduated with a law degree in 1966 and started Equity Group Investments two years later. He was later joined by a fraternity brother, Bob Lurie. The two remained partners until Lurie's death in 1990.

The business became the genesis for a collection of equity and distressed debt funds and private-equity firms such as Equity International, which invest in property companies in emerging markets. It also spawned three real estate investment trusts, including Equity Residential, one of the largest apartment owners in the U.S., Equity Office Properties, one of the country's largest office owners, and Equity Lifestyle, which manufactures home and resort communities.

Zell sold Equity Office to Blackstone Group for $39 billion in 2007, which was the largest leveraged buyout ever at that time. The same year, he orchestrated an $8.3 billion leveraged buyout of the Tribune media company, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, which went into bankruptcy and cost Zell more than $300 million. He became chairman of the Commonwealth REIT in 2014 after the trust's executive officers were ousted by shareholders.

  • 1939 Family flees Poland, one day before Nazi invasion.
  • 1941 Sam Zell is born in Chicago to a wholesale jewelry distributor.
  • 1964 Buys first building while attending law school.
  • 1968 Starts Equity Group Investments in Chicago.
  • 1993 Equity Residential begins trading in New York.
  • 1997 Equity Office Properties begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • 1999 Starts Equity International, which invests in businesses outside the U.S.
  • 2015 Donates $60 million to University of Michigan.