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Willis CEO Wishes He Had Stressed Company's "Lack of Britishness"

By Kalyn Belsha in News on Jun 7, 2009 5:45PM

In an interview with the Tribune Monday, the chairman and chief executive officer of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., Joe Plumeri, said there were a few things he wishes he’d done differently to ease the upcoming name change of the Sears Tower. Among them was downplaying the “Britishness” of his 181-year-old, London-based company. Plumeri, who was born, raised and now resides in New Jersey, said he spends as much time running Willis from its New York offices as he does from London.

“More information about the company's lack of Britishness might have been good,” he told the Tribune. “People were upset that, A, the Sears name was going away, and B, it was being replaced by a British company, so that’s two bad things. And you can't get more American than Chicago, so that’s three bad things.”

Willis announced its plans in March to acquire naming rights to the Sears Tower. The dedication ceremony of the Willis Tower is scheduled for July. The company’s 500 Chicago-area workers will move into their new offices on the 18th, 19th and 20th floors by the end of the summer.

Plumeri said Willis will consider marketing the tower’s new name to help the transition, but knows it will take time regardless.

“They can call it whatever they want, even ‘The Big Willie,’” he said of the tower. “All I know is that the day we announced that this building would be named Willis Tower, everybody in America knew who Willis was.” [Tribune]