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Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks: Inside the Contrarian Mind of Billionaire Mogul Sam Zell [Kindle Edition]

Ben E. Johnson
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $16.14
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

"The challenge is, how do we get somebody 126 years old to get it up?" This was Sam Zell's unique way of saying hello to a large gathering at the Los Angeles Times shortly after taking charge of Tribune Company. "I'm your Viagra, OK?"

Even for Sam Zell, one of the greatest contrarian investors, buying Tribune Company was a risky and controversial move. Many saw the purchase of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times by a man who had made his fortune in cargo containers, real estate, fertilizer, and plumbing to be a sign of the coming media apocalypse. Maybe they were frightened by Zell's nickname, "the Grave Dancer."

The move didn't seem to make sense for Zell either. Why would an epithet-slinging, motorcycle-riding scrapper-who had started with nothing and worked his way up to a $5 billion real estate fortune-be interested in a declining media company (it would have been another story if Zell had taken over Playboy, issues of which Zell had bought and resold for profit to friends around town when he was a teenager)?

Ben Johnson has the answers in this fascinating biography of a uniquely colorful mogul, who is fond of blunt declarations and bold business moves. Johnson also tells the real story of Zell's adventure at the Tribune, that feverish year between his purchase of the ailing company and its declaration of bankruptcy.

Between the story of Zell's rise to astounding riches and previously untold details of his conflicts with his employees and investors, Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks will keep readers alternately laughing and on the edge of their seats.

The Quotable Sam Zell
"If you're the biggest kid on the block, you can throw your weight around. Of course, I never was the big kid, but I've made up for it over the years."

"The true test of an entrepreneur is someone who spends his life constantly testing his limits. The definition of an idiot is someone who has reached their goals."

"I don't do business with anybody who's not afraid, and I won't hire anybody who is confident to the point where fear is not very close to the surface. I've often said that fear and courage are cousins and very closely related."

"Extremism in the pursuit of opportunity is not a vice. If you've seen me step over the edge, it's only to get you to take a few steps toward the line."

"The eleventh commandment is Thou shalt not take oneself seriously."

"The best thing to have in the world is a monopoly, and if you can't have a monopoly, you want an oligopoly. I'm more than willing to leave all the rest of the highly competitive world to everybody else."

"To create an enormously successful corporation that provides both opportunity and sustenance for employers today and a future for them tomorrow, that's the challenge. That's what everybody should be talking about. Not my f*cking language because it doesn't matter."

"I think it was Confucius who said that 'Money talks and bullshit walks."

Editorial Reviews


About the Author

Ben Johnson first encountered Sam Zell while leading two of the real estate industry's most respected trade publications, National Real Estate Investor and Shopping Center World. He previously directed the custom publishing division at American Airlines, ran a division of real estate researcher CoStar Group, and was the director of marketing for Wells Real Estate Funds. He lives in Plano, Texas.

Product Details

  • File Size: 382 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591843006
  • Publisher: Portfolio (December 31, 2009)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,904 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Biography That Misses the Man February 27, 2010
Sam Zell is a memorable character who regularly spews out interesting quotes for reporters. Zell was able to create a massive business domain based on real estate before he took the fateful step of entering the media business by acquiring the Tribune Corporation.

However, this book misses the mark. While author Ben Johnson gets the details of the deals down pat, he fails to create a compelling portrait of the man himself. There is but little in this book about the private Zell, his thoughts or about his family. Johnson also fails to provide an examination of Zell's dealings and the way that he operates his businesses. Worse of all, Johnson's handling of the Tribune fiasco is poor and one wonders why he could not wait until its concluded before undertaking this book.

In sum, this book works both as a compendium of Zell's real estate transactions and as a treasury of Zell's most famous quotations. However, if you want to get past the gloss and into the substance, you have to wait for a future biographer to come along.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oddly lacking February 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sam Zell has been doing deals for many decades and I'd be surprised if he hadn't done dozens of very large transactions. The book claims to be a tell-all about him - "inside the mind of Sam Zell" - yet most of the book is about just one transaction, the Tribune purchase. Pretty shortsighted examination of a major businessman.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, not worth the time to read May 9, 2012
By jmk0302
I read a significant amount about Sam Zell's history and his businesses, and I must say that this book misses the mark in nearly every category about Zell. Ben Johnson's writing style reminds me of a middle school student - short, descriptive sentences that really don't say anything at all. The book is filled with anecdotes and quotes that are really just fillers of space that don't provide any unique insights into Sam Zell's business philosophies. The most interesting part of the book is the first 60 pages - before the author begins the boring and relentless description of the Tribune acquisition. I've heard Zell speak multiple times, and I'm surprised he allowed this thing to get published, truly Zell should know garbage when he sees it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a Deal Maker December 9, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I gained a lot of insight into Sam Zell. Makes you want to make a deal. There is definitely a good story here.
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More About the Author

Ben Johnson has spent the last 25+ years eating, sleeping and breathing all things commercial real estate.

Ben's rock-solid foundation is in the journalism realm, where he has extensive editorial and publishing experience. He spent nearly a decade leading two highly respected industry trade publications, National Real Estate Investor and Shopping Center World magazines.

Recently he was a Director with American Airlines Publishing, where he led the creation and production of a dozen magazines and websites in the financial services, tourism and airline industries.

Prior to his stint in the airline biz, Ben was the Publishing Director at CoStar Group, Inc., a leading provider of information services, where he managed the company's news division for 65 major markets and 100,000+ subscribers across the United States.

Unlike many professional journalists, Ben has real-world, inside-the-industry experience. He was Vice President with Phoenix-based Cole Real Estate Investments, and also Director of Real Estate Marketing for Atlanta-based Wells Real Estate Funds, where he was responsible for all media relations and marketing programs for the company's $6 billion national portfolio of more than 130 buildings. He also helped drive strategies for acquisitions, dispositions, asset management, tenant services and new business development. (Ask him about the Aon Center purchase in Chicago sometime.)

Holding a Bachelor of Journalism from the "world's greatest J-School," the University of Missouri-Columbia, is one of Ben's proudest achievements. He also holds an Associate of Arts from Missouri Southern State University.

Ben is an active member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). His personal website is


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