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Billionaire Sam Zell: I see 'very significant' positive change for business under Trump

  • Corporate America is willing to invest money on a longer-term basis under President Trump, real estate mogul Sam Zell says.
  • Zell points to deregulation and promises of tax cuts and massive infrastructure spending as major positives for business.
  • Continued improvement in underlying economic growth continues to "surprise," he says.

Corporate America is willing to invest money on a longer-term basis under President Donald Trump than the previous "anti-business administration" of Barack Obama, real estate mogul Sam Zell told CNBC on Tuesday.

"Bluntly, the only way I can square anything is I focus on what gets done, not what's said," the billionaire said on "Squawk Box." "On a measure of what's gotten done, I believe there's been very significant change since Trump was elected in November, and change that is positive."

Zell points to deregulation and promises of tax cuts and massive infrastructure spending as major positives for business.

"Just think that all of a sudden there are no industries that are pinata[s] of the president," Zell said, referring as an example to what he called Obama's campaign against fossil fuels.

While specializing in real estate, Zell said his Equity Group Investments has branched out to energy and health care. Since Trump was elected president, he said EGI has purchased refineries and hospitals. Zell started the private investment firm more than 45 years ago. He also chairs five NYSE-listed companies.

In a CNBC appearance in May, he called himself a former Democrat, saying he's more of a Republican lately — conservative on fiscal matters but liberal on social issues.

"I'm more optimistic than I was six months ago. But I'm not ready to party," Zell told CNBC on Tuesday, adding the current business environment is not one of buy anything and win. Investors need to pick carefully, he added.

While warning the economy may be getting "long in the tooth," Zell said continued improvement in underlying economic growth continues to "surprise" him.

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