What the Heck Is Sam Zell Smoking?

So, newspapers are dead. Everyone says that's the case.

No one reads them. Everyone's on the internet. Everyone's abandoning print.

Newspaper are stocks down. Publishing company execs are feeling down.

Which has me wondering what the heck Sam Zell is smoking. Perhaps one of the world's most celebrated investors is investing in — gulp — newspapers. More specifically, Chicago's Tribune Company — a media empire that includes The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. Let's just say more "rough" than "diamonds" in the rough.

But apparently there's something there for old Sam.

The same Sam who bought into stocks after the last crash and bought into corporate real estate after the last downturn.

Sam does his own thing: Ignoring the experts, trusting his gut, and getting rich — very rich. With a net worth of nearly five billion smackers, he's among the richest people on the planet — also, one of the shrewdest.

He zigs when others zag. Smiles, when others frown. And since most in the media frown constantly, it seems like Sam smiles constantly.

Maybe because Sam constantly keeps his mind working and his memory working more.

He remembers when they said TV would be the death of movies. It wasn't. When the VCR would kill TV. It didn't. And when cable would destroy traditional broadcast TV. And it hasn't.

Some call Sam a vulture; swooping down on market carcasses ignored by experts, but apparently worth something to old Sam.

Now, I don't know if Sam is right now about newspapers. I do know, from his history, that Sam doesn't pay attention to the headlines in those newspapers — just the underlying business of those newspapers. For Sam, still a good business, still a good story.

He should know. Right now it's in all the papers.

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