Amancio Ortega, the billionaire behind the Zara clothing chain, has agreed to buy Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza skyscraper from two Canadian pension funds for about $1.2 billion (US$961 million). 

The sale of the iconic, gold-clad tower in the heart of Canada’s financial capital is among the biggest transactions for an office building globally since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The skyscraper is being sold by Oxford Properties, the real estate arm of Ontario’s pension fund for municipal workers, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. 

A representative for Ortega’s family office confirmed the transaction to Bloomberg News. The funds put the property up for sale last year and had been seeking at least $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

The sale has been closely watched in the commercial real estate world for clues about the value of office properties since COVID-19 made remote work ubiquitous and raised questions about how much space companies need. Ortega’s deal comes amid early signs the office leasing market may be picking up: Toronto’s overall office vacancy rate fell for the second quarter in a row at the end of last year. 

Royal Bank Plaza ranks as one of the most high-profile office buildings in Canada. Its two triangular towers boast layers of 24-carat gold on their 14,000 windows, a sight that’s rarely missed by visitors to the city thanks to its location at the foot of Bay Street, Canada’s answer to Wall Street. The building is the headquarters of Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest bank by market value, which moved in shortly after the first tower was completed in 1976.

For Ortega, the world’s 17th richest person, the purchase suggests the pandemic hasn’t shaken his faith in commercial real estate. He had already been engaged in a buying spree of North American assets before Covid-19, including everything from a Chicago hotel to two Seattle office buildings leased by Inc.

Ortega’s net worth stands at roughly US$66.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the majority of which derives from his controlling stake in Spain-based Inditex SA, the owner of Zara.