Sam Zell Closes Spring '16 Executives in the Classroom

The Spring 2016 Executives in the Classroom series ended on a high note last Thursday morning with a visit from Equity Group Investments Chairman Sam Zell. Mr. Zell joined UIC Business students in Lecture Center C1 for an hour-long discussion that touched on the Zell Family Foundation and included students' SWOT analysis of Par Pacific, an energy company with which Equity Group has recently become affiliated.

Students got to hear the story of Mr. Zell’s first venture, a property management business he started while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. When he graduated, he sold the business to another Michigan student, Robert Lurie, who would eventually partner with Zell in some of the most important work in commercial real estate history.

Mr. Zell dug into the details of the Par Pacific deal, sharing his strategy around stranded assets and some of the specific considerations for Par Pacific. Professor Miller followed this with questions for Mr. Zell on real estate, the Tribune Company experience, the Equity Office sale to Blackstone and more generally on Zell’s business outlook. The meeting ended with a Q&A for students, when a few graduating seniors got to ask Zell what he looks for in managers.

UIC Business students have enjoyed a variety of executive speakers this semester. The Spring 2016 series began with Michael Amiridis, UIC Chancellor, who spoke to students about executive vision in higher education. In February, Middelby CEO Selim Bassoul talked with students about the value of intellectual property in maintaining industry advantage.

Later in the semester, Jill Smart, the former VP of human resources at Accenture, described her radical approach to HR at a firm with over 300,000 employees. And just prior to Mr. Zell’s visit, retired Walmart USA CFO Michael Fung, BS ’73, met with students to discuss the role of scale in Walmart’s operations, as well as his outlook for private brands and e-commerce.

It was an excellent semester for Executives in the Classroom. We’re looking forward to what Professor Miller will cook up for MGMT 495 and the Fall 2016 series!