Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios selling West Side campus

Harpo Studios, the production company founded by Oprah Winfrey will sell its four-building campus on the West Side to Chicago developer Sterling Bay Companies in a sale-leaseback transaction that would keep Winfrey’s studio at the site for at least the next two years.

The decision to divest the campus, a progress begun last October, comes close to three years after Winfrey signed off from her eponymous, nationally syndicated talk show in favor of launching the Los Angeles-based Oprah Winfrey Network. Since the talk show ended, Harpo has continued to have a presence at the campus on West Washington Boulevard, with employees producing content for OWN.

A spokeswoman for Harpo confirmed the deal Saturday in a statement that said the transaction is expected to close in 30 days, and the 3.5-acre property would be leased back to Harpo for two years, with the studio continuing to producing programming for OWN. Harpo did not disclose a price.

Sterling Bay managing principal Andy Gloor declined to comment.

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

Once closed, the deal would bring to an end Winfrey’s ownership of property on the Near West Side. In 1988, she moved her talk show to the then-struggling city neighborhood, setting up camp in the former Studio Network Inc. TV and film production facility at 1058 W. Washington Blvd. With a small team of investors, she bought the 88,000-square-foot facility and later expanded it to nearly double the size.

In the years since, the neighborhood has developed into a dinning, shopping and residential spot, with Winfrey’s presence credited for helping the renaissance.

Since ending her talk show, Winfrey has pulled back on her ownership of other area real estate. In April 2013, she took a major hit on the sale of the retail condo at 1017 W. Washington Blvd. that had held her now-shuttered Oprah Store, selling it for $875,000.

In addition, Winfrey’s four-unit duplex condominium in Water Tower Place is on the market for $7.75 million.

Winfrey continues to own small residential properties in Elmwood Park and Merrillville, Ind.

By Bob Goldsborough

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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