Oprah Winfrey is set to sell her Harpo Studios campus to a Chicago developer for $32 million in the next 30 days. An agreement has been entered to sell her Harpo Studios to Chicago developer Sterling Bay after putting the complex up for sale some months ago. As part of the deal, a lease-back agreement will keep the TV mogul’s media company on the Harpo Studios site for two more years.
The deal provides Winfrey’s production company access to its space on the Harpo Studios campus for at least another two years. Harpo Studios was the home of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1990 to 2011, when she ended the talk show and moved to California to devote her time and efforts to the cable-based Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Since the show ended, Harpo Studios has housed production for Oprah’s OWN network. About 200 people are currently employed at the 3.5-acre campus located in Chicago’s West Loop district.
Oprah Winfrey first established Harpo Studios, which she has arranged to sell in the next 30 days, in 1990. Winfrey first arrived in Chicago in 1984 and started on a morning talk show, A.M. Chicago. Within a month, the show was number one in the market and the following year it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey’s move into Chicago’s West Loop district has been credited with transforming the once-gritty industrial area into a family friendly neighborhood with trendy restaurants.
Harpo Studios released a statement upon announcement of the deal. It stated that they had entered into a purchasing agreement with Sterling Bay for the Harpo Studios campus in Chicago’s West Loop, and continued on to say they expected the transaction to be closed in 30 days. At which time, the property will be leased back to Harpo’s production company for another two years and the studio will continue to produce programming for OWN. The Chicago developer, Sterling Bay, that Winfrey has brokered the deal with is a Chicago real estate investment firm that also owns buildings that are home to Google, Sara Lee, and Starbucks’ Midwest headquarters.
Oprah Winfrey is set to sell her Harpo Studios campus to Chicago developer Sterling Bay for $32 million in the next 30 days. The brokered deal will not only allow Winfrey’s production company to continue working out of the space for at least another two years, but could also attract other opportunities to the area, such as the recently announced formation of the Silver Chalice all-digital sports network that will headquarter itself on the Harpo Studios campus. Silver Chalice is a 5-year-old Chicago-based digital sports media company that will oversee its production and operations from a new custom-designed facility at Harpo Studios. Moreover, many hope the new network will also breathe new life into Harpo Studios. New broadcast studios have been built from the ground up with the full-time production staff based at Harpo.
The fallout of Oprah Winfrey selling her Harpo Studios campus to Chicago developer Sterling Bay for $32 million in the next 30 days will not be known for some time to come. There is no clear indication of any unemployment prospects for the 200 people who currently work at Harpo Studios, nor has there been any indication about how many jobs might be added with further development. However, many involved in the transaction hope the deal could foster a revitalization for the area similar to when Winfrey arrived in 1990.
By Leigh Haugh