Blackstone to buy Chicago’s Willis Tower for $1.5bn

Planned sale comes as downtown areas of many large US cities experiencing a renaissance

 The Willis Tower in Chicago: the building last changed hands in 2004 when MetLife sold it  for $840 million. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Willis Tower in Chicago: the building last changed hands in 2004 when MetLife sold it for $840 million. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

 

Blackstone, the world’s biggest real estate investor, is set to buy one of the world’s best known buildings, Chicago’s Willis Tower, for $1.5 billion (€1.38bn) in a deal expected to be signed this week.

The 110-storey Chicago building, better known under its previous name the Sears Tower, is the second tallest building in the US after New York’s One World Trade Center.

The planned sale comes as the downtown areas of many large US cities are experiencing a renaissance and office vacancies are tumbling. Landmark buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York or the Willis Tower in the pre-eminent city in the US heartland are also tourist assets, drawing up to a million visitors a year to add to the owners’ income.

The tower, built by Sears Roebuck in 1970, was renamed in 2009 when insurer Willis rented three storeys of space and paid for the naming rights. The building last changed hands in 2004 when insurer MetLife sold it to a group of private investors, including Joseph Chetrit, for $840 million. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015