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CHICAGO-Flush with hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of their office products distribution company Quill Corp. to Staples Inc., the Miller brothers, Harvey, Arnold and Jack, are expanding their real estate investment efforts. Through their real estate vehicle Millbrook Properties LLC, the brothers will be making focused investments in smaller business parks where the property management function will be retained in house.

“Millbrook Business Center was an experiment for us,” says Harvey Miller, managing director at Millbrook Properties. “The real estate team we put together went out and showed us the possibilities.”

Bringing over 20 years of activity to a close at the 72-acre Millbrook Business Center, the brothers will have erected seven buildings there when they finish a 65,000-sf speculative office structure that is due to break ground next year. Just a few weeks ago, Millbrook signed a $20-million build-to-suit lease with Plexus Corp. and Zenith Corp agreed to move its corporate headquarters to the center around the same time. Millbrook Business Center, located in southern Lake County north of Chicago, also houses the former headquarters of Quill Corp., the firm the brothers founded.

While Mr. Miller would not say how much Staples paid for the company, the figure is reputed to be in the $600 million range. “We were paid Staples stock in consideration for Quill,” says Miller, who, along with his brothers, sold the company in 1998. “We have divested ourselves of a large amount that stock and now have substantial amounts of cash.”

Millbrook Properties’ development push will be focused on smaller 40-acre to 60-acre business park projects where the property management function will be retained in house to ensure quality and build close client contact. This will probably eventually entail a substantial increase in the number of Millbrook employees, of which there are only four currently.

Millbrook Properties is also scouting investment opportunities. “We are looking at land in outlying areas for long-term investment,” says Mark Weir, director of development at Millbrook Properties. Weir says that Millbrook is interested in commercial development opportunities in Lake Forest along Illinois Highway 60, where the village planning commission is pushing for a plan that would allow for an additional four million-sf of office development. Millbrook will also be pursuing redevelopment of B and C suburban office buildings, Weir says.

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