Equity Group Investments Announces Death of Covanta Chairman Samuel Zell

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Covanta Chairman Samuel Zell has died at the age of 81 at home following a recent illness, Equity Group Investments announced on May 18, 2023.

Jim Newberry / Alamy Stock Photo

The real estate mogul launched his career during his undergraduate studies, managing student housing. He founded Chicago-based Equity Group Investments in 1968.

“Sam’s legendary reputation in real estate often overshadowed his investment activity in the corporate sector, although the majority of his holdings were across industries such as transportation and logistics, energy, waste and infrastructure, manufacturing, health care, and agribusiness,” the firm wrote in an announcement.

While he was more notably known for real estate, Zell also was active in the corporate sector, investing in various industries such as waste and infrastructure; energy, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, health care and agribusiness.

In addition to leading the board at Morristown, NJ-based Covanta Holding Corporation, he also chaired media holding company Jacor Communications, Inc. and Anixter International, Inc. 

Zell sponsored multiple entrepreneurial program through collegiate institutions such as Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan, his alma mater; the Zell Fellows Program for entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management; the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; and the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at Reichman University (formerly IDC Herzliya), a private higher education institution in Israel.

Scott Peppet, president of Chai Trust Company and Zell’s son-in-law, commented that “Sam lived life testing his limits and helping those around him do the same. He was a self-made entrepreneur, an industry creator and leader, a brilliant dealmaker, a generous philanthropist, and the head of a family he fiercely loved and protected. He had an unapologetic passion for life, a brilliant mind, a contagious wit, and a deep sense of civic responsibility and personal loyalty. All those who loved and learned from him will miss him terribly.”