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Homeowners Cite Sam Zell’s Ruthless Practices in Response to Glowing Forbes Article

For immediate release
September 23, 2013

Homeowners Cite Sam Zell’s Ruthless Practices in Response to Glowing Forbes Article
Growing movement confronting Zell-owned Company That Markets to Retirees

Contact: Kevin Borden, Center for Community Change, | (202) 360-8876

Sam Zell is currently featured as part of an in-depth cover story in Forbes Magazine portraying the billionaire investor as a shrewd risk-taker who is willing to take a few hits in the service of long-term profit. However, homeowners across the country are speaking up about Zell’s more insidious entrepreneurial endeavors. The article fails to mention some of Zell’s properties characterized by drastic rent increases, economic eviction, and complete insensitivity to the tough reality of the mostly-elderly residents.

Among Zell’s investments is Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc. (ELS), the nation’s largest corporate owner of manufactured home communities.  Zell is the board chair of ELS, which owns 380 manufactured home communities (defined as land-lease communities) in 32 states.  ELS markets to retirees and many homeowners in its developments are seniors living on fixed incomes.

“ELS has been able to push its share value to an all-time high by gouging manufactured homeowners, combining rent increases with decreased community services,” said Pam Bournival, a homeowner in an ELS manufactured home community in Sarasota, Florida.  “This is the real Sam Zell: a vulture capitalist unconcerned about actual people.  Unfortunately, Forbes created a glowing portrait of Zell that betrays reality.”

In the last two years, Zell and ELS have faced increased scrutiny of the company’s management practices, including protests at recent shareholders’ meetings.  In 2012 a group protested outside the shareholder meeting, questioning Zell over exorbitant and unfair increases in lot rents, and delivering a petition to stop economic evictions.  The homeowners, supported by the Center for Community Change and the National Manufactured Home Owners Association, have launched a national campaign targeting ELS and Zell (you can learn more at

Zell is also undercutting the economic security of seniors and people with disabilities by funding politicians and political action committees that are bent on dismantling the cornerstones of our nation’s retirement security programs: specifically, Social Security and Medicare.

“I was raised to believe that great business leaders had a moral compass and were supposed to make contributions to the broader society as a result of their success.  With Sam Zell, it’s just the opposite,” said Bobbie Hemmerich, a homeowner from an ELS community in Lewes, Delaware.  “Under his guidance ELS seems intent on robbing seniors – mostly women – of a secure retirement.  To add salt to the wound, he gives big political contributions to politicians who want to gut Social Security and Medicare.”

The Center for Community Change (CCC) and the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA) have called on ELS to re-evaluate its business model and management practices.    CCC and NMHOA believe that a sensible alternative model for ELS is to put in place long-term lease agreements with fair and balanced rent increases and capital improvement processes.  Additionally, ELS would be able to engender a higher level of customer loyalty by pushing for policies that protect and strengthen our nation’s Social Security and Medicare systems.

For more information go to or contact Kevin Borden at (202) 360-8876 to set up interviews with ELS homeowners who are leading the campaign.


Founded in 1968, the Center for Community Change is one of the longest-standing champions for low-income people and communities of color. CCC seeks to confront the vital issues of today and build the social movements of tomorrow. For more information go to

For decades, the National Manufactured Home Owners Association has represented seniors, veterans and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who live in manufactured housing communities. For more information go to