MetLife Inc. on Thursday acquired the Sears Tower in Chicago, buying Trizec Properties Inc.'s interest in the tallest U.S. building for $9 million. The transaction allowed Trizec to avoid assuming a $766-million mortgage debt.
"It's a terrific building, but it just wasn't right for us to own it at this time," said Rick Matthews, a spokesman for Trizec, the second-largest office real estate investment trust. Toronto-based Trizec, seeking to reduce its $3.2-billion debt, will continue as building manager and leasing agent.
MetLife, the second-biggest U.S. life insurer, held the building's first mortgage and took the title from Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Construction of the Sears Tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was completed in May 1973 and opened to tenants that fall, Trizec said. Its twin broadcast antennas were added in 1984.
The 103rd-floor Skydeck attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. It was the tallest building in the world for 25 years.
About 10,500 employees work in the building for more than 100 tenants. The current occupancy rate is 87%, reflecting a decline since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center towers. The Chicago building's occupancy rate was 95% in 2001 before the attacks.