Sara Lee will move headquarters back to downtown Chicago

December 8, 2011

(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
Sara Lee plans to remodel the home of its new meat-focused company in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood.
(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
An artist's rendering of what the building might look like once the new Sara Lee meat company moves to Chicago.

Downtown Chicago will soon call itself home to the corporate headquarters of another company. Sara Lee, which is currently based in west suburban Downers Grove, will soon split into two companies. One of the new companies, which will focus on meats, will relocate to Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, the company announced Thursday.

The move will bring at least 500 jobs to downtown Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will provide up to $6.5 million to Sara Lee.

"You're here to stay," Emanuel said Thursday at a news conference. Sara Lee had been headquartered downtown, but moved to Downers Grove in 2005.

"We would need, as a smaller, more entrepreneurial company, we need to create a lot of buzz and it's very difficult to get that buzz and energy in an area where it's very quiet, so I think we need that environment of Chicago," said Jan Bennink, the executive chairman of Sara Lee.

Some of Sara Lee's meat brands include Ball Park, Hillshire Farm, and Jimmy Dean. The new meat company still does not have an official name. The company expects to move into its new space in early 2013.

Emanuel said he's not in a battle with the suburbs to persuade businesses to move to the city, but he did say, "We won."