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i talked to him this morning – want to know what he said? first, a quick story…..

will never forget, was so nervous on my first day moving into my dorm/suite at the harvard business school – totally intimidated w/ no friends- like high school all over again.  Across the hall was a bedroom door 3 ft away where I could over hear a guy that was now my suitemate- with a noticeable accent- so assumed he wasn’t from the country like most other classmates in this particular program- and thought it was only right to give him a big american welcome. so i intro myself and say- hey man- I’m billy dec- from chicago- i’m in entertainment- and he says- hey, im joe Moinian- I love chicago- and travel there all the time!  I say- great! Feeling totally in position to be the guy to invite him to my hometown place of business- I say, well when you come- I can show you the city! and you have to let me take you to my place rockit for a burger!  Just as I am getting over myself thinking I am sorta connected to the city more than any other classmate- I say- wait, you love chicago and go there all the time- why?  He every so as a matter of fact says- oh, I just bought the sears tower.  Omg!  never felt smaller- cant believe I just showed off that I have a burger place- and he has the sears tower- wow- almost packed my suitcase and left right there- knowing I was way out of my league!  Long story short, we became great suitemates, study buddies and friends- he’s funny, cool, smart, nice,… definitely a man who works hard and knows what he is doing- someone that I could look up to for friendship and advice… especially if revolved around business and real estate.

Anywho, I woke up this morning to all the crazy headlines of the new name change for the sears tower- so I hit him on his cell to ask him all about it

 – btw, I so am getting flash backs of me and him in the Harvard business school lunch room about two years ago when he asked me if I knew anyone who would want to rent space and name the building after their company- I never thought it could really happen!  we talk, email, text,… at least every month… but today had a nice long talk about it all… but the short of what he told me basically is…


-“the name sears was once very important to corporate business in chicago… chicago is one of the great business / corporate cities… and now the name sears is not where it once was”… “willis is a strong, international, financial,… company that is great for any building… and any city… and for chicago”

-he is “thrilled to have found them” as bringing a strong tenant like that brings “comfort, confidence, excitement” to the building- which is important because that “building is the largest tax payer in chicago” … “And is the biggest piece of real estate within the greatest city… within the greatest country… and needs that confidence, security and excitement.”

-thought his stories were fascinating of how he bought it in 2003 when everyone was afraid to touch it- wouldn’t get near the deal- because it was supposedly back then openly talked about as a terrorist possible threat/target. He invested in it- and invested in our city.

-they did pay him for the naming rights and that along with being a strong stable international tenant with a 20yr lease in such a critical building made sense.

-“the city actually was supportive with incentives” in getting the tenant to come here at this level

-“the chairman is a very smart man and is dedicating a lot to chicago”


Trust me- I am like most not comfortable with changing the most iconic building name in chicago to something new-

But just wanted you to hear another perspective straight from the man himself…

More to come- and feel free to comment or ask a question that I can maybe ask him next time we talk?

actually i just got this email from him…


It was great chatting with you.

We are thrilled to have a new major tenant for Willis Tower, who is making a major commitment to grow their regional headquarters at Willis Tower in downtown Chicago. The transaction will create many new jobs for the city and strengthens Willis Tower as the bedrock asset of the West Loop of Chicago. This is the first of many changes in the coming months reestablishing Willis Tower as the best place to work and to visit in the City of Chicago.

Joseph Moinian

:: President & CEO

T H E  M O I N I A N  G R O U P


8 Responses

  1. JoeBrady

    In the spirit of “feed mayonaise to tuna”, you should produce t-shirts with the Sears Tower in the background and the famous quote “Watchu Talkn’ about Willis?” front and center

    Chicagoans will call Sears Tower Sears Tower just like they call Sox Park Sox Park (does it have another name?)


  2. JoeBrady

    JoeBrady says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    March 13, 2009 at 10:13 am
    In the spirit of “feed mayonaise to tuna”, you should produce t-shirts with the Sears Tower in the background and the famous quote “Watchu Talkn’ about Willis?” front and center

    Chicagoans will call Sears Tower Sears Tower just like they call Sox Park Sox Park (does it have another name?)


  3. toopster

    Hmmm… Heard of Sears. I would guess most people in Chicago (and the world) have. Never heard of Willis. For such an international powerhouse, strange no one knows of it EXCEPT for maybe in the corporate business world. I don’t think people shop at Sears because the tower is named after them and I don’t think people will be more likely to do business with Willis because their name is now on it. Very sad…

  4. mvigan

    Awesome blog Billy!! Crazy Harvard story. Marshall Fields to Macy’s, Comiskey to the Cell, we should be used to this. Moinian’s explanation makes sense and was time to move forward.

  5. ShauntaGarth

    It is sad that sears tower will be renamed but when it comes down to it, in this economy nostalgia means nothing. Its all about the money =) Regardless of what the name people will always call it the sears tower.

  6. DavidAnthony

    The guy bought the building, he can name it whatever he damn well pleases. In many ways, Chicago is STILL just another city in the midwest, with small-town thinking. Chicago is lucky I didn’t buy the building. I’d have renamed it “Hector and Sonia’s Chimichanga Bar & Tower” and put a spinning Burrito on top that lit up green every night!

  7. macdude72

    Cool story, Billy. I signed the petition on and suggested incorporating the word Chicago into the name, as a compromise.

    I mean seriously, Macy’s is still referred to as the Marshal Fields Building. US Cellular Field is Comiskey Park (not Sox Park?!?), and the only Chicago “icon” whose name change seems to have passed unnoticed was when the Standard Oil Building changed to the Aon Building. But, really, it took me years to realize that they were one and the same!

    My suggestion was the Chicago Willis Tower. It gives Chicagoans something to be proud of and attached to (because, hey – he’s right – Sears has all but disappeared, and is now more associated with Hoffman Estates than the city), and gives the client their name, not only associated with an awesome building, but directly with this awesome city.

  8. Sears Tower

    Sears Tower will always be called Sears Tower to Chicagoans! Marshall Fields is Marshall Fields. The Chicago thing is that outsiders, who buy our shops or buildings don’t know we don’t like changing what is old and good about our city, we like our great Chicago history. Sears Tower is Sears Tower no matter who buys it or tries to change the name. It is part of our history. It’s a done deal. Chicagoans will always call it The Sears Tower!


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