Is Oprah Looking to Sell Her Harpo Studios Property?
Add real estate mogul to Oprah Winfrey’s business savvy. It’s been confirmed that her production company has hired a real estate firm to review proposals and viable options for the West Loop facilities.
Two years ago, Winfrey shuttered the doors of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated daytime talk show in history with 25 years on the tube, and moved her base camp to Los Angeles where her new venture with Discovery Communications, the Oprah Winfrey Network, has finally found steady footing and ratings among the 85 million homes that tune in. Rosie O’Donnell, whose show taped from Harpo’s lot but just couldn’t find an audience, closed shop in 2012.
Now Winfrey is considering selling, refinancing or leasing-back portions of the 80,000-square-foot Harpo campus and tagged New York-based real estate firm Eastdil Secured to handle an exploratory team, according to Crain’s. The four-campus complex, with buildings on Washington Blvd., Aberdeen, May and Carpenter Streets, has more than 170,000 square feet of studio and work space still used for production and post-production for OWN programming. Operations and staff won't be affected by a lease-back or sell of the properties Winfrey assured company employees in a Sept. 30 internal memo.
The current real estate buzz around the West Loop puts Winfrey and her brand, once again, in the catbird seat. Back in 1990 when Winfrey's company chose the Near West Side as home for her studios, the neighborhood wasn’t the hip destination it is now. It was, to use a polite euphemism, a sketchy transitional area full of blight. Today, Winfrey’s old studio grounds have some of the trendiest neighbors, converted loft spaces, star chef-driven restaurants and splashy boutiques in the old meatpacking district. Google Inc. set up its Chicago office space there.
With West Loop prices on the rise, Winfrey’s business acumen — this time in real estate — is ripe for the payoff.