Instead of whistling past the graveyard while Grave Dancer - Sam Zell - may be doing the final dance on the grave of the LA Times, the Times decided to greet their potential new owner with both guns blazing....
A Zell-led company battles with tenants
A mobile-home park operator run by the billionaire aims to extract value by challenging local rent-control laws.
By Thomas S. Mulligan
Times Staff Writer
April 2, 2007
Billionaire Sam Zell has said a number of times that his interest in acquiring Tribune Co. is purely economic — not egotism, not passion for the company-owned Chicago Cubs, not a soft spot for newspapers.
The 65-year-old Chicagoan has nicknamed himself the Grave Dancer because of his ability to see profit opportunities where others see miles of bad road.
Zell's dogged pursuit of Tribune has left many people wondering how this dealer in distressed properties would run one of the nation's largest media companies, whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, KTLA-TV Channel 5 and cable channel WGN.
But don't look for sympathy from the paintball fanatic who Forbes says is worth $4.5 billion, say people who have had dealings with a lesser-known enterprise led by Zell. They say that since becoming the largest mobile-home landlord, the company has battled cities across the country, enlisting teams of lawyers to challenge local rent-control laws and raise rents.
"He very proudly calls himself a vulture investor," said Beverly Berry, a mobile-home tenant. "Certainly that's the way he's acted with us."