A Stock Market Carol

Remember back in February when Tribune Co. owner and commercial real estate titan Sam Zell declared that he was seeing a bottom in the RE market? Here's an item from the ghost of the stock market past:

By Robert Manor, Chicago Tribune Feb. 5, 2008 - Billionaire Chicago investor Sam Zell has taken a 7.7 percent stake, valued at $737 million, in Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., with brands that include Sheraton, W, Westin and other hospitality staples.

"The acquisition of common stock ... has been effected solely for the purpose of investment," said a regulatory filing. It said there was no intention of participating in Starwood's business decisions.

In Monday's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, trusts and other entities of which Zell is an officer said 14.75 million shares of Starwood's stock were purchased between Oct. 2 and Jan. 31 at an average price of $49.97 per share.

Over the years Zell has developed a reputation for finding value in out-of-favor real estate.

"I think he sees it just as a good investment, a way to take advantage of a depressed hotel stock that owns great brands and has fallen dramatically," said Will Marks, senior research analyst JMP Securities, a boutique investment bank. "Sam has a solid track record of finding bargains."

The stock he bought $50 is trading right now at about $23.50 -- for a loss of, oh, going on $400 million.

Wonder what the ghost of the stock market future is looking at right now?