A possible face-saving exit for the real estate adviser that invested pension fund money into the Sears Tower refinancing in 1989 hinges on the formation of a new real estate investment trust.
Chicago developer John Buck Co. is exploring rolling several high-profile Chicago office buildings - including Sears Tower - into a publicly traded REIT.
Industry sources say Buck might be close to securing interim financing from New York investment bank Morgan Stanley & Co. to buy out investors in several of the firm's signature Chicago skyscrapers.
Among the possibilities: 190 S. La Salle St., 200 S. Wacker Drive, the Leo Burnett building at 35 W. Wacker Drive and the American Medical Association building at 515 N. State St.
But signing up Sears Tower would be key, for both its size and marquee value.
Sources say Boston-based Aldrich Eastman Waltch, which advises the partnership that now owns the tower, is interested in the idea of an initial public offering.
An IPO at the right price would offer AEW a graceful exit from a famously bad investment: The firm, which brokered the property's $850 million refinancing in 1989, assumed control of the building in 1994 when Sears Tower was worth less than half that amount.
Investors in the partnership include the pension funds of Ameritech Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., International Paper Co., AT&T Co., IBM Corp., BellSouth Corp., Atlantic Richfield Co. and the retirement systems for the states of Connecticut, Iowa and Michigan.
Calls to Buck officials were not returned. A spokeswoman for AEW said the firm declined to comment.