Alum’s group leases tower

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April 7, 2009

4:31 AM

One of Chicago’s most famous landmarks has a new tenant and a new name. In an agreement announced March 12, global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings and CEO Joseph Plumeri ’66 have become the main tenant of the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, the tallest building in the western hemisphere.

Plumeri is currently a trustee of the College’s Mason School of Business and is a former member of the Board of Visitors.

The newly leased property will serve as the headquarters for Willis’ Midwest operations.

“We’re consolidating five area offices into the Willis Tower, which will raise our profile in the Chicago area,”
Vice President of Group Communications Will Thoretz said. “We also get to put our name on the building, which is a public relations coup for us.”

The Willis Group, based out of London, is one of the world’s largest insurance and risk management firms, operating in over 100 countries worldwide.

“What Willis does is find insurers for a client,” business professor John Boschen said. “If a company wanted to provide health insurance to its employees, the Willis Group would find an insurer to do it. They essentially bring buyers and sellers together.”

Plumeri said the relocation to Willis Tower would be very beneficial for the entire company.

“We are delighted to be making this bold move and firmly establishing our leading presence in one of the nation’s biggest insurance markets, and it will be wonderful for all our associates to work under one roof,” Plumeri said in a press release.

The biggest change will be the addition of the Willis corporate name to the building, which has been named after Sears, Roebuck and Co. since its construction in 1973.

“Having our name associated with Chicago’s most iconic structure underscores our commitment to this great city and recognizes Chicago’s importance as a major financial hub and international business center,” Plumeri said.

Many citizens of Chicago have criticized the Willis Group’s renaming the national landmark.
Boschen said the name change would not have negative effects on the Willis Group’s brand.

“It’s probably basically positive,” Boschen said. “In Chicago, it’s the big office space landmark, so [the renaming] will bring Willis tons of free publicity. That can only help a company that is big but not well known because of the business they’re in.”

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