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Gateway mall sold

Shoppers enter Gateway on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, on the south side of the mall. (GWYNETH ROBERTS/Lincoln Journal Star)

Gateway, Lincoln's largest and oldest shopping mall, will be getting a new owner.

Westfield Group late Tuesday announced it is selling a 90 percent stake in Gateway and six other malls to Starwood Capital Group for about $1 billion.

Westfield did not say what Starwood paid for the individual malls, but in its 2011 annual report, the company valued Gateway at $103.5 million.

The company said the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

An eighth mall is being sold in a separate transaction for $147 million to an undisclosed buyer.

Westfield, an Australian company that owns more than 100 shopping malls in several countries, said in a news release that it is working on divesting itself of "non-core" assets in the United States to pay down debt and invest in higher-profile malls in the United States and elsewhere.

In February, Westfield sold a 45 percent stake in 12 U.S. malls to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for more than $1.8 billion. It also sold interests in three U.K. properties for about $240 million.

Westfield acquired Gateway and eight other malls from the The Richard E. Jacobs Group of Cleveland for $756 million in 2002.

In 2005, the company did a $45 million renovation to the mall, which included a new food court and a center court with a handmade Italian carousel.

Gateway, like many other malls across the country, struggled during the recession, seeing its vacancy rate spike and its sales fall.

However, the 970,000-square-foot mall has almost completely rebounded. It is nearly full, and its sales increased more than 6 percent last year, to their highest level since 2006.

Local Gateway officials declined to comment.

Starwood Capital Group, based in Greenwich, Conn., is a privately held investment fund whose most notable business is the Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It also has a publicly traded real estate finance company called Starwood Property Trust.

Starwood officials could not be reached for comment.

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Reach Matt Olberding at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com

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