Fred Sands was born on February 16, 1938 in Manhattan, New York City. His father was a taxi driver. He moved to Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California with his parents in 1945, when he was seven years old.
Sands was educated at the Roosevelt High School. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Sands established Fred Sands Realtors, a real estate company headquartered in Brentwood, Los Angeles, in the 1960s. Over the years, the company opened 65 offices in California. In 2000, he sold it to Coldwell Banker. The merger was managed by Lloyd Greif.
Sands headed two private investment firms, Vintage Capital Group and Vintage Real estate, both headquartered in Los Angeles. Vintage Capital Group invested in a variety of businesses and industries, specializing in turnarounds of distressed companies and bankruptcies. Vintage Real Estate and Vintage Fund Management were both wholly owned divisions of the Group. The company typically acquired underperforming shopping centers and renovated them. Among the firm's current projects is SouthBay Pavilion, in Carson, California.Fred also owned radio stations and hotels in the past.
Sands was a co-founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and served as the Vice Chairman of its Board of Trustees. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Opera.
Sands was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts and a liaison to the Kennedy Center. He was also appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Arts Council.
Sands established the Fred Sands Institute of Real Estate at the Graziado School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California in June 2015.
Sands was married to Carla Sands, a philanthropist who serves as President of the Blue Ribbon Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Music Center. They resided in Bel Air and collected art.
He had a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Alexandra.
Sands died of a stroke in Boston, Massachusetts on October 23, 2015 at the age of 77. His funeral was held at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, California on October 30, 2015.