(JTA) — Sam Zell, a Chicago real estate magnate and son of Holocaust survivors who led a tumultuous leveraged buyout that bankrupted the Tribune media company in the early 2000s, died Thursday. He was 81.
Before buying the Tribune Co. in 2007, the billionaire was known for his gift for reviving moribund companies. He developed an office-tower company that he sold to the Blackstone Group for $39 billion in 2007. His firm also invested in manufacturing, travel, retail, healthcare and energy. He pioneered the use of REITs, real estate securities that trade like stocks on the major exchanges.
But Zell appeared to lose his magic touch in 2007 after buying the Tribune company and its assets, which included televisions stations, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. The company foundered in what Zell himself called the “deal from hell,” and filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, one year after Zell took the company private in a heavily leveraged $8.2 billion deal. The deal took place at a time of declining fortunes in the media industry, Zell’s personal leadership and decision to saddle the company with debt were widely blamed for the failure.
“The ‘grave dancer’ of real estate development was now the ‘grave digger’ of the newspaper world,” a Forbes columnist wrote at the time.
Zell was a major donor to Jewish causes, including the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, the American Jewish Committee and the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, named for his father, in Chicago. (Its alumni include former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and actor Ike Barinholtz; a Jewish high school in Chicago is named for Zell’s mother Sophie.)
According to a 2007 profile in the Forward, Zell would regale campers as a Jewish summer camp counselor with tales of his parents’ escape from the Holocaust. According to his 2017 autobiography, “Am I Being Too Subtle? Straight Talk From a Business Rebel,” Zell’s parents, then known as Ruchla and Berek Zielonka, escaped from Poland at the onset of the Nazi invasion and embarked with their 2-year-old daughter on a circuitous, 21-month journey that took them through Lithuania, Russia and Japan before they made it to the United States. They travelled on transit visas supplied by Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Vilnius who saved thousands of Jews.
Zell was born on Sept. 28, 1941, in Chicago. He graduated in 1963 from the University of Michigan, where he was also a member of the Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. He managed student housing apartments as an undergraduate and founded his chief investment vehicle, Equity Group Investments, in 1968.
“Sam Zell was a self-made, visionary entrepreneur. He launched and grew hundreds of companies during his 60-plus-year career and created countless jobs,” Equity Group Investments said in a written statement on Thursday. “Although his investments spanned industries across the globe, he was most widely recognized for his critical role in creating the modern real estate investment trust, which today is a more than $4 trillion industry.”
Zell was married three times. His survivors include his wife, Helen, three children and nine grandchildren.
Zell credited his own drive to the lessons he learned from his parents. In his memoir, he remembers seeing footage of the concentration camp atrocities that his parents escaped.
“Those unforgettable images were my introduction to the Holocaust,” Zell wrote. “Looking back, I can see that they accelerated my maturity and gave me a sober awareness of the world. That film also went a long way toward helping me understand my parents’ orientation toward life — why they pushed so hard and were so determined for their children to succeed. Economic success had been critical in securing their freedom. They had escaped Poland in part because they had the means to do so — my father’s prescience in storing away money.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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