Zell on Trump: President’s tax documents showing massive losses “don’t tell much of a picture”

The controversial investor, offering his opinion about a New York Times report, said many developers take the same deductions as the president

Donald Trump and Sam Zell (Credit: Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Sam Zell (Credit: Getty Images)

Billionaire developer Sam Zell, no stranger to controversy himself, sees nothing wrong with President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which according to a New York Times report showing when Trump’s businesses foundered, he paid almost no income tax for a decade.

Zell said the documents “don’t tell much of a picture” of the health of Trump’s businesses, according to Bloomberg. The Times reported the documents showed Trump recorded $1.2 billion in losses between 1984 and 1995, and paid income tax in just two of those years.

Zell is chairman of Equity Residential real estate investment trust, which owns more than 300 properties around the country. He’s been active real estate investor for decades and made $36 billion in 2007, when he sold Equity Office Properties Trust to the Blackstone Group.

In his musings on Trump, Zell said he used many of the same deductions the president did during that period, “as did every other real estate investor in the United States.”

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“For a real estate guy to have huge deductions, who owns a lot of brick-and-mortar, is not unusual,” Zell said.

He added that it would be more useful to look at cash flow from Trump’s businesses rather than tax returns. The president has yet to release his taxes.

Zell made his remarks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas. He is known for his outspoken, blunt talk and was briefly cast away last year after offensive comments about women in business. He later apologized.

Zell has since appeared on various outlets speaking about his success, the real estate industry, and the market. [Bloomberg]Dennis Lynch