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MetLife Will Sell
Sears Tower

By Dean Starkman
From The Wall Street Journal Online

Two investors who are part of Larry Silverstein's group that owns the World Trade Center lease are among the buyers of the Sears Tower, which MetLife Inc. agreed to sell Thursday for more than $800 million, according to people familiar with the situation.

Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Cayre, New York investors who are among Mr. Silverstein's backers in the Trade Center, are part of a group that agreed to buy the Chicago landmark, these people said. Another New York investor, Jeffrey Feil, was also a participant in the Sears Tower deal, the people said. Names of the other investors couldn't be learned.

MetLife announced the agreement Thursday, but declined to disclose the buyer or the terms, citing a confidentiality agreement. While the insurance company, based in New York, had previously announced its intention to sell the tower, the speed of the deal and the relatively high price caught the real-estate industry off-guard.

MetLife said it would realize an after-tax gain of $90 million on the deal.

Messrs. Goldman and Carye couldn't be reached. Attempts to reach Mr. Feil were unsuccessful. The names of the three investors were reported Thursday on the Slatin Report, a Web newsletter.

Mr. Goldman led a group including Mr. Cayre that put up most of the $125 million of the equity that Mr. Silverstein, a New York developer, used to buy the 99-year office lease on the Trade Center office portion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The deal, valued at $3.2 billion, including the Trade Center's retail mall, closed in July 2001, weeks before the September terror attacks that destroyed the complex.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Port Authority in December had quietly agreed to return all of the $125 million in equity that Mr. Silverstein and his low-profile group originally invested to buy the leases. The full details of that transaction haven't been released to the public. But the deal effectively eliminated the Silverstein group's capital risk in the project, while allowing the group to retain control of 10 million square feet of office space. The Port Authority has rejected a Wall Street Journal request to review the transaction, citing Mr. Silverstein's ongoing lawsuit against his insurers, led by Swiss Reinsurance Co., over how many claims may be collected as a result of the attacks.

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-- March 12, 2004