Let's Play 'Name That Building' Skyscapers May Get New Labels in Wake of Corporate Shuffling

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Insurance giant Aon Corp.'s reported attempts to put its name on the Amoco Building raises unsettling issues about the character of one of the world's most recognizable skylines.

The next in line to fall could be the Sears Tower. Hoffman Estates-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. said Thursday that it loses its legal hold on the name in 2000.

Be it a form of corporate graffiti or just the natural evolution of cities, Chicago's skyline is changing to reflect the times.

Since the mid-1970s the big three in Chicago have been the Sears Tower, Amoco Building and the John Hancock Center.

However, those names no longer reflect their ownership or who is actually working in the buildings.

Sears has a token few desks in the tower. Amoco is downsizing. John Hancock doesn't have any corporate presence in its namesake.

Fueling the changes in the mid-to-late 1990s has been a nearly unprecedented number of mergers, consolidations and corporate reorganizations. All of which have fed a hot real estate market, itself waffling between financial Real Estate Investment Trusts and financial partnerships.

The result is that the Sears Tower's largest tenant is Ernst & Young. Amoco Building's top employer may soon be Aon, if its negotiations are successful. And The John Hancock Center is now dominated by Near North Insurance.

Imagine the Ernst & Young Tower, Aon Building and Near North Insurance Center as the new face of Chicago.

Or if they were named after their respective property owners, they would be the TrizecHahn Tower, Blackstone Building and Shorenstein Center.

One IBM Plaza is another example of a building that doesn't reflect its main tenant. Owned by the Blackstone Group, its major tenant is the law firm Jenner & Black, occupying 12 of its 47 floors.

Corporate sponsors might argue there is nothing wrong with changing names in a city that already hangs company names on its most impressive buildings, such as the Wrigley and Prudential buildings. …