Willis CEO: Call Sears Tower "The Big Willie"

Admits PR mistakes in Tribune interview

By Lora LeSage
|  Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009  |  Updated 8:48 AM CDT
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Inside the Sears Tower

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Will this be "The Big WIllie?"

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Joe Plumeri may not be a familiar name in Chicago. But it will be.

The CEO of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., is prominently featured on the front of Sunday's Chicago Tribune business section, talking about the London-based insurance company's move to Chicago.

And the March public relations blunder that was the announcement to change the name of Sears Tower to Willis Tower, a move that inspired Facebook groups, petitions and outrage among the people of this city.

"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," Plumeri told the Chicago Tribune. "And you can't get more American than Chicago, so that's three bad things."  

And despite the resounding opposition, the dedication of Willis Tower is still scheduled for July when 500 employees from the area will begin moving into their newly renovated offices. The improvements were partially funded with $3.8 million in tax-increment financing from the city.

Willis may even spend marketing dollars to help with the official name transition from Sears Tower to Willis Tower.

"They can call it whatever they want, even 'The Big Willie,' " Plumeri told the Tribune. "All I know is that the day we announced that this building would be named Willis Tower, everybody in America knew who Willis was."

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