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French company buys Westfield; creates world’s biggest mall operation

On Friday, Frank Lowy, received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle. Today, a company from across the Channel ended his 60-year career as an international mall developer with a multi-billion-dollar sendoff.

France’s Unibail-Rodamco will pay $15.7 billion to take over Lowy’s Australia-based Westfield Corp., creating a global property leader with a gross market value of $72 billion and a presence in 27 of the world’s “most attractive” cities and retail markets, according to a Westfield press release.

The newly formed company’s 104 retail assets attract some 1.2 billion visits a year in Europe and the United States. Fifty-six of the malls, considered to be flagship destinations in their markets, account for 84% of the GMV. Its U.S. properties include the Westfield World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. It is also the developer behind the Century City shopping center on the west side of Los Angeles.

“The transaction announced today is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure,” Lowy, chairman of the Westfield board, said. “Unibail-Rodamco’s track record makes it the natural home for the legacy of Westfield’s brand and business.”

The mall group will operate as a REIT in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Its operations will employ 3,700 people.

“We believe that this transaction represents a compelling opportunity for both companies to realize benefits not available to each company on a standalone basis, and creates a strong and attractive platform for future growth,” commented Christophe Cuvillier, CEO of Unibail-Rodamco.

Lowy was just 25 when he and fellow Hungarian émigré John Saunders formed a partnership that evolved into one of the world’s biggest developers of retail centers. Just four years later, they listed Westfield on the Sydney Stock Exchange and touched off its international expansion.

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