Salty billionaire Sam Zell has long been known for his foul mouth and abrasive demeanor, rough edges that helped the real estate magnate build a reputation as a feisty and iconoclastic investor.
But Zell's bluntness backfired at a Jan. 31 meeting of Orlando Sentinel staff after Zell said "fuck you" to a journalist who twice questioned him about softening news coverage.
Most staff did not hear the insult until they watched the incident on video, one source said, in a recording that has been making the rounds and generating buzz within the Sentinel.
The target of Zell's curse was photographer Sara Fajardo, and Zell called her at least twice the weekend to apologize, the source said. After the jump, exclusive video of Zell's brazen insult.
The journalist in the video asked where the paper's journalism was headed, and Zell said journalists needed to focus on what readers want, thus helping generate revenue to reinvest in the paper.
The journalist then followed up, saying readers want "puppy dogs" rather than real information. Zell took umbrage, delivering the eminently quotable line, "you're giving me the classic... journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don't count."
Zell dropped his F-bomb a few breaths later, at the very end of his answer.
The source added this tidbit:
The video was taken down for half the day Friday as the publisher, Kathy Waltz, debated on whether to edit out his little aside, but everyone in the newsroom had seen/heard about it by then. It went back up in its original, unedited form.
See the short and full versions below: