Sir Frank has agreed to sell Westfield Corp for almost A$33 billion, saying the time is right to step back from executive roles and focus on building the family's wealth through investment.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on December 13, 2017

Having started the Westfield empire from scratch in 1960 with John Saunders, Sir Frank Lowy feels the time is right to sell the family’s portfolio of shopping malls.

French commercial property giant Unibail-Rodamco will purchase Westfield Corporation for A$32.8 billion in what is Australia’s biggest ever takeover.

At the point of sale, the company was running 45 shopping centres and airport retail precincts in the US, UK and Italy. The Australian operations on the other hand, are managed by the separately listed Scentre Group.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the Lowy family stake in Westfield is valued at $1.976 billion. And they would receive close to $700 million in cash and $1.284 billion in Unibail-Rodamco securities.

Westfield shareholders will receive $10 in cash and shares — a substantial premium from the $8.50 they last traded at.

It was the golden egg when the co-founders floated the company 57 years ago. If you had invested $1000 back then, you would’ve been worth $148 million in 2009.

Speaking from Milan yesterday, Sir Frank said the family wanted to step away from executive roles and focus on investment opportunities. He also said they would be investing heavily in Unibail-Rodamco — which operates 71 shopping centres in European capital cities.

“Why now? Why now because it is appropriate to do it now,” Mr Lowy said.

“Firstly because it’s a very good price for our shareholders and also from our point of view and the company I think we want to change our roles in the world… we would rather be investors than executives.”

Australia’s shopping mall czar will step down as chairman but is expected to remain a strategic advisor. His sons Peter and Steven will retire as co-CEOs of Westfield, however Peter will be offered a board position by the new owners.

“Today is the second most important day in Westfield history – the most important day was September 1960 when Westfield was born,” the 87-year-old said.

“When I look back on 57 years it is more than a lifetime’s work that I have put into this company.

“It is still bittersweet for me but it is time, from a personal point of view, to move on.”