Chicago Real Estate Icon for Sale

June 05, 2011

The owners of the tallest building in Chicago — and on the continent — are in debt.

The Willis Tower, formerly known forever as the Sears Tower, was purchased by a bunch of investors in 2004 for about $841 million.

Today, the four-million-square-foot skyscraper in the South Loop is reportedly $780 million in the hole.

As a result, the investors are looking for help to recapitalize the Chicago real estate paragon and have hired two brokerage firms to market Willis Tower to investors and buyers.

“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,” Bill Utter, a spokesman for the owners told Reuters.

The Sears Tower was designed by by Skidmore Owings and Merrill and built in 1973. It got its original name by being the headquarters of Sears Roebuck and Co., which moved to Hoffman Estates in the early 1990s.

The name was changed in 2009 to Willis Tower when UK insurer Willis Group Holdings leased 140,000 square feet of space at $14.50 a square foot.

The 110-story skyscraper, which soars to 1,729 feet with its antennas, is currently about 20 percent vacant, with most of the vacancies on the upper floors.

If the iconic tower is ultimately sold, I wonder if the new owners will change the name back to the Sears Tower.

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