Oprah Winfrey may sell Chicago studio site

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Oprah Winfrey may sell Chicago studio site

By: Bob Goldsborough and Melissa Harris
Chicago Tribune

The production company founded by Oprah Winfrey has hired a real estate firm to evaluate options for its West Side facility, a company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday night.

The move comes more than two years after Winfrey signed off from her eponymous, nationally syndicated talk show in favor of launching the Oprah Winfrey Network, based in Los Angeles. Harpo continues to have a presence at a four-building campus on West Washington Boulevard where employees produce content for OWN.

A source with knowledge of her plans said Winfrey is considering selling some of her Harpo Studios campus on the Near West Side or refinancing the loans on the property. According to the source, Winfrey also is considering a sale and lease-back transaction.

Late Tuesday, Harpo Studios spokeswoman Nicole Nichols confirmed that Harpo has hired the real estate firm Eastdil Secured to look at options for the campus.

In 1988, Winfrey moved her talk show to the then-struggling city neighborhood, setting up camp at 1058 W. Washington Blvd. With a small team of investors, she bought the 88,000-square-foot facility and later expanded it.

Chicago real estate agent Sean Conlon, founder of Conlon & Co., said on Tuesday that he had heard that Winfrey was considering the sale of her studio. "I've got to give her credit," Conlon said. "She's not only a pioneer in TV, but it turns out she was a very savvy real estate pioneer as well. She was over there (in the West Loop) before anybody. And she'll make a killing."

Launched in 2011, OWN has found its way into the black after a rocky start. The network, a joint venture between Harpo and Discovery Communications, is seen in 85 million homes.

News of the potential sale was first reported by Crain's Chicago Business.

Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter; Tribune reporter Robert Channick contributed.