Things Are Looking Up for the Willis Brand

The Sears Tower will be renamed Willis Tower under a leasing deal with Willis Group Holdings. Sears Roebuck & Co. has not occupied the tower since 1992. [Photo by Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times]

My father took a Jeffersonian, big-tent approach to family. If your name was Willis, that was good enough for him. “Everyone’s a cousin somehow,” he liked to say, “even the ones who got hanged or thrown in jail.” So he would have been pleased with today’s news that Chicago’s Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world, will be renamed Willis Tower. He would have been surprised to learn that some Willis somewhere started an insurance company. That cousin would have been welcomed into the tent, too, even if he had an edifice complex.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Sears Tower is no more, made obsolete by a company with an edifice complex.

The 110-story Chicago giant will be renamed Willis Tower under a leasing deal announced Thursday. The New York-based owners signed a lease with Willis Group Holdings Ltd., an insurance broker, for 140,000 square feet plus the naming rights.

Willis is the third-biggest company in its field, but it’s taking on No. 1, Chicago’s Aon Corp., in its own backyard. Like Aon, Willis likes to plaster its name on big buildings.

Under Chairman Joseph Plumeri, Willis put its name on a new London office building that opened last July amid pomp featuring the duke of York.

In Chicago, Willis will have bragging rights with its name on the former Sears Tower, the nation’s tallest building. Aon, whose founding chairman is the name-conscious Patrick Ryan, attached itself in 2001 to the former Amoco Building, the fifth-tallest building in the United States and No. 2 in Chicago.

… A tenant at the tower, architect Daniel Coffey, said the renaming “is beyond the pale of stupid” because of Sears Tower’s international prestige. “It’s awful. No one knows who Willis is, even in Europe,” said Coffey, principal of Daniel P. Coffey & Associates Ltd. He said he has two years left on his lease and that the renaming could lead him to move. Read more. [Photo by Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times]

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