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Real estate mogul Zell invests in cold storage warehouse firm

Stake in East Coast Warehouse adds to Zell’s logistics assets

Sam Zell sees heat in cold storage (Image: Americold)

Equity Group Investments (EGI), real estate mogul Sam Zell’s investment company, said Thursday it has invested in East Coast Warehouse (ECW), an operator of 72 million cubic feet of temperature-controlled warehouse space serving the food and beverage industry. Terms of the transaction, including whether EGI acquired a majority stake in ECW, were not disclosed.

Based in Elizabeth, New Jersey, ECW operates warehouses at the Ports of New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Savannah, Georgia. It also provides drayage, local and regional trucking, and brokerage services. It has been in business for 65 years.

Chicago-based EGI said ECW’s senior management team, led by CEO Jamie Overley, will continue to run the business and will retain an unspecified ownership stake. EGI said it will supply capital for add-on acquisitions and will offer strategic support to ECW. EGI President Mark Sotir, Managing Director Evan Harwood and Vice President Tyler Goldstein will join ECW’s board of directors.

Zell, who founded EGI 50 years ago, became legendary for making big, high-risk purchases of often-distressed office properties and then selling them for handsome profits. Zell’s most famous deal was the 2007 sale of his first real estate investment trust, Equity Office Properties Trust, to The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) for $39 billion, a transaction that was consummated just before the collapse of the U.S. commercial real estate market.

In recent months, Zell has publicly stated his desire to expand into the red-hot industrial real estate market. Zell, whose company made an unsuccessful bid late last year to acquire industrial property company Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp., told Monmouth shareholders that demand for logistics warehousing space triggered by the growth in e-commerce will continue to exceed the available supply for years to come. “We don’t view this imbalance as momentary — we are in the midst of a long-term secular shift in the logistics networks across the U.S.,” stated the letter, an excerpt of which was published on the online platform Millionacres.

EGI’s current portfolio of 52 companies includes 14 that are classified as transportation, logistics, industrial and infrastructure properties.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.