Billionaire Sam Zell Sees Economy Permanently Scarred by PandemicAdvisor Perspectives
Sam Zell, the billionaire known for buying up troubled real estate, said the coronavirus pandemic will leave the same kind of impact on the economy and society as the Great Depression 80 years ago, with long-lasting changes in human behavior that imperil many business models.
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“Too many people are anticipating a kind of V-like recovery,” Zell said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We’re all going to be permanently scarred by having lived through this.”
Just as the depression left behind a generation that couldn’t shake the experience of mass unemployment, hunger and desperation, the burdens this crisis has forced on society may be similarly hard to forget. Zell, 78, said it won’t be easy for people to live as they did before the “extraordinary shock” of the pandemic.
He expects some amount of social distancing and working from home to persist long after the acute phase of the outbreak is over, possibly for years. Retail, hospitality, travel, live entertainment and professional sports are some of the industries he sees continuing to struggle.
“How soon will anybody get on an airplane? How soon will anybody stay in a hotel? How soon will anybody go to a mall?” he asked. “The fact that these places may be open doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be doing business.”
Nothing to Buy
Zell disagrees with the conventional wisdom that big cities like New York are doomed and warehouses are the smartest bet in commercial real estate.
For now, the raspy-voiced investor who earned his nickname, the Grave Dancer, buying distressed real estate in the 1970s, is watching from the sidelines. Like Warren Buffett, Zell hasn’t found anything to buy since the onset of the pandemic. Part of the problem is a lack of deals.
“Those sellers that wanted to sell still remember the prices that were available seven or eight weeks ago. The buyers are looking at a very different world and expecting to see significant discounts,” he said. “When you’ve got that big a spread, nothing happens.”
Read the full article here by Erik Schatzker, Advisor Perspectives