Why Sam Zell Is Still High on Tribune

Ducati-riding magnate tells the New Yorker his deal's golden
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2007 6:24 PM CST
Chicago billionaire Sam Zell listens to his introduction before addressing the Inland Press Association's annual meeting in Chicago, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Billionaire real estate magnate Sam Zell, legendary for turning around distressed properties, is likely to have his riskiest play—the struggling media giant Tribune—in his hands by year’s end. The financials have only gotten worse since he made the deal, but the "extravagantly confident" Zell isn't showing any nerves as he walks Connie Bruck through it in a New Yorker profile.

The 66-year-old Chicagoan tells Bruck it isn't a high-minded effort to save print journalism—"The way I look at transactions, and the way I look at risk, I have no room for sentiment"—but a bet that a highly unusual structure will allow the company to pay essentially no taxes, and use the savings to pay down its spectacular debt. Bruck catalogs Zell's exuberant eccentricities, from the yellow Ducati he rides to work to the music boxes he make for gifts and treasure hunts he throws for grown-up friends.