At the Library, Sam Zell on Marriage, Barney Frank and the Tribune Company

1105zell At the Library, Sam Zell on Marriage, Barney Frank and the Tribune CompanyThis morning at the New York Public Library during the Bloomberg Real Estate Briefing, Sam Zell sat for an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu. While the Local 46 Union protested Mr. Zell’s use of non-union labor to finish an apartment building on West 23rd Street outside, Ms. Liu asked Mr. Zell about the housing market and his managment of the Tribune Company.

But first, a note about Mr. Zell’s attire. He was wearing jeans and a light gray sweater while most of the audience in the Library’s underground auditorium were wearing a suit and tie.

On his outfit : “This is the way I go to work everyday. I was planning to wear a sport jacket, but it took an hour and half to get from the airport, so you’ll have to put up with me as I am.”

On demand in the housing market: “At least in my lifetime, this is the first recession we had where the real estate industry didn’t start in oversupply … Other than some condos, there aren’t any empty buildings. We haven’t built anything since 2007.”

On Barney Frank and the housing bubble: “We had Barney Frank, you know, parading back and forth in Washington. He said ‘Let’s keep dancing, let’s put out more subprime loans.’ And then when the shit hit the fan, Barney wasn’t there anymore. That kind of lack of responsibility permeates the whole housing market.”

On delayed marriages: “I graduated college, and I was married 10 days later. I’m not saying it was a good idea [big laughter from the crowd]. Within a year, 95 percent of everyone I went to college with was married. Today marriage has been delayed seven-nine years …  Now we’ve got to to take all those people out of the market, which is what’s happened. We’re finally realizing that you buy a house when you need a house.”

On referring to Ms. Liu as a “journalist”: “I could call you worse.”

On the Tribune Company: “When you’re dealing with a 160-year-old company, you have a lot of rigid scenarios. The history of monopolies being able to adjust is not a long history of success … I have to question the whole newspaper approach because so much has passed them by while they didn’t do anything.”

On management changes at the Tribune Company: “I think that, if we had had a normal environment, the answer is it would have worked. The company is efficient today, and has far greater potential than when we bought it in two and a half years ago.”

Earlier: Sam Zell? ‘He’s a Rat!’ Union Yells Outside NYPL

zturner@observer.com