In February 2007, Sam Zell told Jonathan Gray to buy a motorcycle.
Mr. Gray, head of the real estate division at private equity powerhouse Blackstone Group, had just closed on the purchase of Mr. Zell’s Equity Office Properties. Blackstone had announced its bid the previous November, just 13 months after Mr. Gray had stepped into his new role. He had spent his entire career at the firm, so his ascent was not so surprising, and had managed 10 deals worth a combined $32 billion so far, so the territory was not exactly new. All the same, Mr. Gray was 37 years old at the time, and he had embarked on the largest leveraged buyout in history.
On Jan. 18, less than a month before the deal was to close, Vornado Realty and two backers launched an unsolicited bid. It was $52 a share to Blackstone’s $48.50. Steve Roth, the bullish—in outlook, demeanor and build—chairman of the massive New York-based investment trust had arrived in the bookish Mr. Gray’s china shop, and it was now a scramble to fend him off. Read More