Australian family retail empire Westfield Group has announced it will retake full control of the retail space at New York’s World Trade Center – 10 years after it sold the retail concourse of the original site, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Westfield, controlled by the Lowy family of Australia, repurchased a 50% stake in the retail part of the lower Manhattan site in July 2011, and announced in a statement this week that it would pay $800 million (€587 million) to buy the remaining stake.
The purchase brings its total investment in the 365,000 square feet (34,000 square meters) space to around $1.4 billion.
In 2001, just six weeks before the 9/11 attacks, Westfield bought a 99-year lease at the original World Trade Center site. It sold it back to New York's Port Authority in 2003.
The Port Authority owns the 16 hectare site World Trade Center site, which includes four new towers, including the tallest skyscraper in the US, the 9/11 memorial and museum, a performing arts centre and a transport hub.
The shopping mail empire, headquartered in Sydney, is currently seeking to expand beyond its home market, in Australia and New Zealand, where it anticipates slow growth in the coming years.
The announcement comes as the retailer prepares to create a new company for its Australasian activity, called Scentre Group, while its overseas operations in the US, UK and Italy would become a separate entity called Westfield Corporation.
Westfield Group had already spun off half its assets in Australia and New Zealand into the Westfield Retail Trust – listed on the Australian Stock Exchange – which the Lowy family sold their 7% stake in earlier this year.
Westfield co-founder Frank Lowy will be chairman of both new entities and his son Steven will be chief executive of the international arm.
Steven is currently co-chief executive of Westfield Group, along with his brother Peter, who has indicated he intends to step down in the next 18 months.