Billionaire Sam Zell Sees Recession Next Year

Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell, who profited from selling just before the 2008 crisis and buying just after, predicts that global forces will lead to a U.S. recession next year. “I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic,” he said. He also noted that Nigeria cut its economic growth projection for 2016 nearly in half, commenting “for an emerging market like that, it’s a disaster, and that’s happening all over the world.” He continued: “So, I just don’t think the U.S. can avoid it. Other real estate investors present similar, but less immediate, projections. James Connorof of Duke Realty noted that his firm has “been deleveraging like most of our peers have, and positioning ourselves so that when the recession hits, we have capital to go out and acquire at good prices,” but he suggested a recession is not likely to come too soon although he’s not “bullish about 2017 or 2018.” Jonathan Gray of Blackstone Capital Group asserted that “it’s definitely too early to call the end.” Zell also predicted recession in 2012. Owen Thomas of Boston Properties said, “We’re probably approaching a correction at some point . . . but the question is how deep will that be.” Zell expects the predicted recession to be “a significantly milder version” than the previous one. Along with global forces, he points to political polarization in the U.S. – describing Donald Trump as “a wild card” and “full of risk” – and the state of the real estate market, which has generally been rising since 2009 but is affected by concerns regarding Fed policy. “If somebody needs a bell ringing to figure out that the real estate market is pretty frothy right now,” he quipped, “then I’m in the business of selling hearing aids.”