Tallest Building in Western Hemisphere is Renamed Willis Tower

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere was renamed Willis Tower today in a changing of the guard that underscores Chicago’s increasing importance as a major global financial and business center. Earlier this week, FacilityBlog posted an article about plans for significant sustainable modernization projects in the building as well.

Joseph J. Plumeri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Willis Group Holdings (NYSE: WSH), the global insurance broker, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley officially introduced the new name together at a 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 remains the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,450 feet (442 meters). Willis Tower will be one of Willis’ three largest office locations, alongside New York and London. The company will occupy more than 140,000 square feet (13,000 square meters) 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.

“Every member of the Willis family is honored to be associated with such an architectural icon and privileged to call this prestigious business address our new Midwest Region headquarters,” Plumeri said. “Above all, the naming of Willis Tower is an affirmation of our strong commitment to the great city of Chicago, its people and its future. 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. Over the years, we’ve grown as Chicago has grown, and we are delighted to be a part of the great future this dynamic city is building as a global financial center. We’re proud to call Chicago our home.”

Mayor Daley said: “Especially in these difficult economic times, a decision such as the one Willis has made sends an important message to all Chicago residents that our city is a vital place and that we are working hard to take the steps necessary to keep our economy moving. So I want to thank the company for their decision to locate in Chicago and for adding their presence to our skyline.”

At today’s 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.

Scott Lorenz, Executive Director of Chicago Cares, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Willis and thank them for their generous investment in the Chicago community. Their commitment will support our work throughout the year, and we look forward to engaging Willis Associates in meaningful community service projects that help fellow Chicagoans in need.”

Patrick G. Ryan, Chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016, said: “Chicago 2016 has always received strong support from corporate donors, and we thank the Willis Group for their donation to help us bring the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Chicago. We are in the final stretch of our campaign for the Games, and the continued support and guidance from the Chicago business community is vital to our success.”

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. Willis HRH is one of the most prominent retail insurance brokers in the Chicago market, arranging property and casualty and other insurance coverage for businesses of all sizes.

“Willis is about bringing people together and building trust, which is why our move into Willis Tower means so much for our Associates, our clients and our place in the larger business community,” said Don Bailey, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Willis HRH. “This great tower is truly a symbol of Chicago’s vibrancy, success and distinctiveness as a world-class city. We hope other successful businesses will join us here and be part of the growth and excitement Chicago has to offer.”

John Huston, Executive Vice President of American Landmark Properties, Ltd., part of the real estate investment group that owns the building, said: “The name Willis Tower is the most visible symbol of significant momentum and progress at this great, iconic building. We are under way with an unprecedented greening renovation program. We’ve opened a thrilling new attraction in our Skydeck called The Ledge. And we are proud to welcome a great company like Willis to the building, and to our front door.”

Joseph Moinian, CEO, The Moinian Group, also part of the ownership group, said: “We are thrilled to have a new major tenant in Willis Group Holdings at this iconic Chicago landmark. With this move, Willis is making a major commitment to grow its regional headquarters in downtown Chicago. The transaction will create many new jobs for the city and strengthen Willis Tower as the best place to work and to visit in the City of Chicago.”

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.

For more information on the sustainability efforts of the Willis Tower, make sure to check out Facility Blog’s recent story here.

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.

Willis Group Holdings Limited is a leading global insurance broker, developing and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries, with a global team of approximately 20,000 Associates serving clients in some 190 countries. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com. Information about the building can be found at www.willistower.com.