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CHICAGO—Thousands came out to an early-morning meeting yesterday at the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting to hear legendary investor Sam Zell explain what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Interviewed by Randall K. Rowe, the chairman of Green Courte Partners, LLC, Zell, the founder of Equity Group Investments and chairman of Equity International, delved into his background and early business experiences and how these helped shape a storied career.

Zell never forgets that he comes from an immigrant family, and that their journey to America was a harrowing one. His parents lived near the German-Polish border until 1939. However, his father, a merchant, understood the peril, and took the family on an 18-month voyage to America by way of Japan just as World War II spread across the globe. They arrived in May 1941 and their son Sam was born in September. Few of their friends or relatives who remained behind would survive the war.

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