(Bloomberg) -- Real estate investor Sam Zell, asked at a conference Wednesday about gender diversity and the #MeToo movement, said he has promoted women based on merit. Then he used a vulgarity.
“I never promoted a woman because she was a woman. I never demoted a woman because she was a woman. My issue is what do you do, what do you produce, how do you interrelate to the rest of the business,” Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments Inc., said at the REITweek investor conference in Manhattan.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a, ‘We gotta get more p---y on the block, OK?’” Zell, 76, added, eliciting gasps and laughter from the hundreds at the gathering.
“Those things can get me in trouble, right?” Zell said. Steven Wechsler, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, the conference’s organizer, responded, “If I said that, I’d be in more trouble.”
Ron Kuykendall, a spokesman for the REIT association, said the group “doesn’t condone the use of that language.”
Zell’s Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. has a female CEO, Marguerite Nader, and Ventas Inc. CEO Debra Cafaro has credited Zell with encouraging her over the course of her career. Zell, who has a net worth of $4.6 billion, has a history of provocative statements, including using the f-word and other vulgarities during panel discussions and live television interviews. In a Bloomberg TV interview in March, he said in passing that “all women are good looking.”
An Equity Group representative didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Zell’s statements at Wednesday’s conference.
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