updated 2/9/2007 2:25:15 PM ET 2007-02-09T19:25:15

Equity Office Properties Trust shareholders approved a $23 billion buyout offer Wednesday from the private equity firm Blackstone Group, sealing the deal on an acquisition that ended with a down-to-the-wire bidding war.

Company officials, who favored Blackstone’s $55.50 per share proposal over a rival bid from suitor Vornado Equity Group, expect the acquisition to be completed by Friday.

The Blackstone deal had the support of Equity Office trustees, even though it was less than the $56 per share in cash and stock offered by Vornado.

Paramus, N.J.-based Vornado withdrew its $23.2 billion offer hours before the vote, saying the premium it would have to pay to top Blackstone’s offer wouldn’t be in the interest of its shareholders.

Vornado’s bid had been deemed too risky by Equity Office because of the length of time it would take to complete and the need for Vornado shareholder approval.

Chicago-based Equity Office is the nation’s largest publicly traded office landlord and owns more than 580 buildings totaling more than 105 million square feet nationwide. Its properties include WorldWide Plaza in Manhattan and the Civic Opera building in Chicago.

Including assumed debt, Blackstone values the all-cash deal at $39 billion — making it the largest-ever private equity buyout bid.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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