By Roland Li
The owners of North America’s tallest building, the former Sears Tower in Chicago, are seeking a major investor to recapitalize the property.
“We can confirm that a recapitalization effort has commenced with a select number of qualified investors. Our goal is to make a strong building even stronger,” said Bill Utter, a spokesman for the owners.
Reuters first reported the news. Sources told Reuters that the tower currently has $780 million in debt.
Two of the owners are familiar names in Manhattan real estate: Joseph Moinian of the Moinian Group and Joseph Chetrit of the Chetrit Group, who just sold 1450 Broadway for $204 million. Chicago-based American Landmark Properties is also an owner. In 2004, the trio purchased the tower, now known as Willis Tower for a major tenant, Willis Group Holdings, for $900 million.
Two of New York’s top brokers, Newmark Knight Frank’s James Kuhn and Eastdil Secured’s Douglas Harmon, are marketing the building to investors.
Kuhn declined to comment. Harmin wasn’t available for comment. Officials at the Moinian Group and Chetrit Group couldn’t be reached.
The 3.8 million s/f tower is currently around 82% leased. A Goldman Sachs lease recently expired, but the bank actually moved out of the building years ago, and had subleased the space to other companies, said sources. Those subleases are currently being renegotiated, and United Airlines recently leased around 700,000 s/f in the building.
The 108-story skyscraper was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. When it was completed in 1973, the building surpassed the original World Trade Center towers in height, although One World Trade Center will be slightly taller when completed. Willis Tower’s antennae rises to 1,720 feet, while One World Trade Center’s will be a symbolic 1,776 feet. (If roofs are considered, the Willis Tower has the edge at 1,451 feet, while One World Trade Center will be 1,368 feet.)
Clad in black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass, the structure is arranged in nine tubes that rise to varying heights, with the middle column as the tallest. The 103rd floor skydeck recently saw renovations and new glass boxes that suspend visitors to dizzying heights above Chicago.