After three years of limbo, ostensibly operating as an independent third-party manager while being owned by three mall giants, Chicago-based Urban Retail Properties has purchased its freedom. The company bought out Westfield America, Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties for an undisclosed amount.

The company will now plow ahead and attempt to expand its management and consulting business. The buyout “permits us to explore a variety of other business opportunities,” said CEO Ross Glickman. Currently, the firm manages 40 million square feet of retail properties (placing 12th in Retail Traffic's annual rankings).

Urban has had a choppy history. The company was founded in 1969 as JMB Realty Corp. by University of Illinois roommates Neil Bluhm and Judd Malkin. In 1984, that group completed a $1.4 billion merger with Urban Investment and Development, which was responsible for developing such renowned urban assets as Water Tower Place in Chicago and Copley Place, Boston.

In 2000, it was bought by Dutch concern Rodamco North America. At the time, it owned a portfolio of 24 malls and managed more than 60 others. But two years later, Westfield, Simon and The Rouse Co. came along and broke up Rodamco in a $5.3 billion deal. The three then co-owned Urban (with General Growth getting Rouse's share as part of their merger last year).