What’s in a Name? As Willis Tower, Building Is Just as Tall

July 16, 2009

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere has gone global.

The historic Sears Tower in downtown Chicago has been renamed Willis Tower and now holds one of the three largest office locations of global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings. The other two are in New York and London.

Willis Group Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Plumeri, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley officially introduced the new name at a July 16 ceremony at Willis Tower attended by Chicago business, community and government leaders, the building’s owners and management, and Willis’ Chicago-area Associates.

Opened in 1973 as Sears Tower, the 110-story glass and steel structure is 1,450 feet tall. Willis will occupy more than 140,000 square feet of space in the building when nearly 500 Associates move in this summer from five area offices. Willis plans to add more jobs in Chicago in the coming years.

“The naming of Willis Tower is an affirmation of our strong commitment to the great city of Chicago, its people and its future,” Plumeri said in a statement released by the company. “Willis has been in Chicago since 1885, the same year that William LeBaron Jenney built the Home Insurance Building, the first skyscraper in the world.”

At the ceremony, Willis presented a check for $100,000 to Chicago Cares, the city’s premier volunteer organization. Willis’ Chicago-area Associates have pledged thousands of hours of their time to serving the community. The company is also making a $100,000 donation to Chicago 2016 to support the bid to bring the Olympic Games to the city.

Willis serves clients in some 190 countries through its team of some 20,000 Associates worldwide. Approximately half of its revenues are in North America, where it is known as Willis HRH following its acquisition of insurance intermediary Hilb Rogal & Hobbs (HRH) in October 2008.

With the naming of Willis Tower, the three tallest buildings in Chicago all now have names associated with insurance industry leaders, reflecting the growing role the industry plays in the city’s 21st century economy.

Willis Tower was designed by architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Sears, Roebuck & Company. Sears sold the Tower in 1994 and vacated it completely by 1995.

Willis Tower is owned by 233 S. Wacker Drive LLC, a real estate investment group formed in 2004 to purchase the tower. Ownership includes Yisroel Gluck and John Huston of American Landmark Properties, Ltd., based in Skokie, Ill.; and partners Joseph Chetrit of the Chetrit Group, and Joseph Moinian of The Moinian Group. U.S. Equities Asset Management LLC, headquartered in Chicago, provides management and leasing services to the property.

Michael Kazmierczak, Senior Vice President, U.S. Equities, represented the building in lease negotiations. Josh Kuriloff, Vice Chairman, and Kent Ilhardt, Executive Vice President, Cushman & Wakefield, represented Willis.

Source: Willis Group Holdings Limited, www.willis.com. Information about the building can be found at www.willistower.com.

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