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Billionaire Sam Zell says Trump rally rooted in optimism for much stronger economic growth

The stock market rally since Donald Trump's election represents a "huge psychological difference" about the prospects for the economy, fellow real estate billionaire Sam Zell told CNBC on Wednesday.

There's been a shift on Wall Street from "extreme pessimism to possible optimism," said Zell, who refused to say whether or not he voted for Trump. "I don't think there's any reason why this country can't go back to [an economic] growth rate of 3 percent."

On "Squawk Box," Zell said the economy has been held back "under the tyranny" of President Barack Obama's environmental regulations.

"I think this country needs someone like Trump to encourage us and lead us in an optimistic fashion," Zell said. "That's a great deal of what's been missing over the last eight years."

Trump has a "unique opportunity" to affect change in the United States, and Americans are ready for a leader who can break the gridlock in Washington, Zell added.

Zell also said Trump is "significantly more disciplined" now than he was a year ago. He added the real estate mogul has evolved as the reality of the presidency has set in.

In October 2015 on CNBC, Zell warned that Trump should not be underestimated, but he also said at the time that the then-GOP frontrunner did not have the right personality for the White House.

On Wednesday, Zell also dicussed reports that his Equity Residential real estate business is taking Trump's name off three large apartment buildings in New York.

He said the process began a year ago, because Equity Residential did not want to express any political views. He said the decision to remove Trump's name had nothing to do with resident protests, as suggested in media reports.

In a statement to CNBC, Zell wrote: "This was a change planned for some time to coincide with the expiration of a contract. We chose to wait until after the election so we would not be inadvertently making a political statement."

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