Former ELS CEO Promoted at Sam Zell’s Investment Firm

March 9, 2012 by   - () 3 Comments

Sam Zell

Billionaire investor Sam Zell has rearranged leadership at the top of his investment firm, hiring David Helfand and naming him and William Pate co-presidents of Equity Group Investments, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Helfand was previously CEO of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), the nation’s leading manufactured housing and RV park developer. ELS is a publicly traded company Zell founded.

In an interview, Zell, 70, said that Helfand’s expertise in real estate and Pate’s expertise in corporate acquisitions and management is the mix the firm needs. David Contis previously led Zell’s real estate investments. He left the company last year to lead the mall group at Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group.

Zell said succession planning has been discussed. He said he knew who would succeed him should he be unable to work but declined to say who that would be.

“I don’t think that’s relevant to your readers,” he replied.

Zell has mentored Helfand for more than 20 years. Helfand is the son-in-law of real estate investor Neil Bluhm.

“My history is based on two pillars: real estate and corporate,” Zell said. Helfand and Pate have “very deep depth in one or the other, and the two of them together are one plus one equals six.”

Pate’s previous title was managing director, although many sources describe him as Zell’s chief investment officer. (“I would not know the title of anybody who works for me,” Zell said with some hyperbole, when asked why he created the position of co-president.) Pate has been with Equity Group Investments since 1994 and in the chief investment role since 2000.

He is on the board of several of Zell’s holdings, including Covanta, Exterran, Wapiti Oil & Gas and Tribune Co., the parent company of the Chicago Tribune. Zell is chairman of Tribune Co.

Helfand is joining the firm from Helix Funds, a $2 billion real estate management company he founded and managed for nine years. A subsidiary, Riverside Communities, is a large owner of manufactured home communities.

Coming with Helfand from Helix, which remains in operation, is David Weinberg, who previously worked for Zell’s Equity Office Properties, which the Blackstone Group acquired in 2007. Weinberg will be an Equity Group Investments managing director.

Zell repeated his mantras that he would be “chairman of everything, CEO of nothing” and that retirement was not in his “lexicon.”

“The reality is that I’ve spent a lot of time with David, even during the years he wasn’t working for me,” Zell said. “I’ve probably spent more time with David than any individual in my organization, and it was a natural evolution for us to keep talking about different stuff and how I wanted to move on.”

Zell was listed No. 66 on the Forbes magazine list of U.S. billionaires.



3 Responses to “Former ELS CEO Promoted at Sam Zell’s Investment Firm”

  1. George Peters on June 9th, 2012 2:19 am

    Obviously Sam only cares about acquisitions and profits even at 70; this is really a shame… what about the people that bought your properties, can they have some satisfactions for what they pay ? !!!

  2. Miriam Burtsche on June 12th, 2012 6:42 pm

    June 12, 2012

    Equity Lifestyle Properties Corporate Office
    Thomas P. Heneghan , Chief Exec. Officer and Director
    Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc.
    Two North Riverside Plaza
    Suite 800
    Chicago, Illinois 60606
    Phone: 312-279-1400
    Fax: 312-279-1710

    Dear Mr. Heneghan,

    I live at Starlight Ranch, 6000 E. Pershing Ave. Orlando, Florida 32822 in your Southern Region. Mr. Eric Zimmerman is Vice President of this region.

    I am President of the Homeowners Association here.

    I am writing to inquire if Mr. Zimmerman has reported to you the recent Assault and Battery which was an act despicably and totally unwarranted by the Co-manager of the park, Cathy Bates., in a drunken rage, on June 18th, 2012 assaulted the Vice President of our HOA.

    Cathy ( around 10:30 PM) attacked our Vice President who was out walking her dog. Cathy put her hands on Dianne neck and roughly twisted her face to one side all the while yelling obscenities at her. The Sherriff’soffice was called along with the Courtesy Patrol employed by the park who arrived after the Sheriffs.

    Dianne filed a Battery charge against Cathy after she was talked out of an A/B charge by the Sheriff who had responded to the 911 call. There were four HOA Board Directors present at the start of the attack, with two leaving immediately (Audrey Davis and Albert Erdmann) while two stood and watched the attack take place ( Denise Koplar and Sandra Fonseca) .

    After taking Dianne home, I immediately e-mailed Eric Zimmerman Vice President of ELS in Tampa, two Directors of the FMB. our attorney,and Jan McMeans of ELS Networking, summing up the attack.

    Eric Zimmerman conducted a review of the attack the following week and has notified me that Cathy Bates has been fired. I have found out that Cathy was urged to “resign”.
    My problem now is that Cathy and her husband Bronx (both managers here) and who live here, are still in the park which puts Dianne and myself ill at ease as we do not know if Cathy or Bronx will get drunk again and do bodily harm to either of us or even to some senior resident.
    ( We are a 55+ park.) In fact today Bronx was heard to imply that he would retaliate against Dianne some time soon.

    I heard from Zimmerman this evening after I e mailed him about the problem now of Cathy continuing to live here as a resident and he replied

    After I expressed my deep concern about Dianne’s safety with Cathy still residing here and the fact that neither of us can attend any social functions in case Cathy were to attend any of them for fear that there would be another attack on her by either Bronx or Cathy.

    Zimmerman’s reply was “ If she does, we will deal with it” which is not an acceptable answer. Dealing with an event which is carried on while Cathy is drunk again , endangers myself, Dianne and any other senior resident living here.
    In reply to Zimmermn,s remark I told him that only the week prior to this attack, Cathy, drunk again, had verbally assaulted me while I was asking about a situation here. I have two witnesses to that.

    There has been a growing ILLEGAL take over here by three Directors of the Board and which we have contacted an attorney .Eric said After I requested a copy of the park Courtesy’s report I was told by Zimmerman that we could not have it. Also that he couldn’t deal with the park, Cathy and the HOA. He has no business interfering with the HOA and has no business stating ( as Cathy did) that SHE would call a Board meeting and get rid of myself as well as Dianne.
    I am concerned that Zimmerman may not have made ELS aware of these events. I have been told that your company does not like this type of occurrence on any of their properties. I certainly hope you will step into this situation and give both Dianne and myself relief from the threat to us from a MANAGERS of the park.
    It is highly irregular to allow a senior resident of a 55+ mobile home park continue to live and pay rent when her life is in jeopardy daily. This is certainly Elder Abuse both physically and emotionally.
    Miriam Burtsche President HOA

    Regional Offices
    Southern Region
    Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc.
    5100 W. Lemon Street
    Suite 308
    Tampa Bay, Florida 33609
    Phone: 813-282-6754
    Fax: 813-289-7628

  3. SHERRY LEWIS on June 4th, 2013 5:48 am

    I have lived at Regency Lakes for six years now and my lot rent has increased so much that I now pay more lot rent than mortage payment. When I move in there I was told that the lot rent did not increase every year and it has.. I pay $521.00 a month lot rent for not even 3 feet on each side of my home. I cannot not afford this anymore. They don’t maintain the lawn, trees, or anything that should be taken care of for the dollar amount I pay.

    I have seen that Mr Sam Zell is a very wealthy man so I really don;t think he should be so greedy.. Alot of the folks in Regency Lakes are going to lose their homes because of this lot rent and I really pray that he sees this message and does something about it.

    I have spoken to the so called managers about this issue and they really don’t want to hear it. I believe that the law states that in order to increase lot rent that improvements have to be made.. In the six years I have been here no one time has anything been done.

    Please look into this matter.. I love my home but I just can’t afford it anymore..

    Thank you,
    Sherry Lewis
    106 Artifact Ave
    Winchester, Va 22603