Sunday, July 12, 2020

AT&T sells CNN Center building in downtown Atlanta

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The iconic CNN Center building in downtown Atlanta may soon have a new owner, though CNN employees will stay there for at least a few more years.

AT&T, which owns CNN following its 2018 acquisition of Time Warner, has already agreed to sell or plans to sell the CNN Center, according to an internal company note sent on Monday. WarnerMedia, the AT&T subsidiary which operates CNN, will lease the building to its new owners for at least five years.

CNN employees will not be affected immediately. But long-term plans require that many, if not most, CNN employees move from downtown to recently renovated buildings near Georgia Tech that already house TNT, Cartoon Network and other WarnerMedia networks. WarnerMedia has approximately 6,000 employees in Atlanta.

The CNN Center has long been a downtown magnet. It was damaged in late May when protests against the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minnesota police became violent. A large sign with the emblematic CNN red logo, located at one of the main entrances to the building, was also damaged during the demonstrations, but quickly repaired the next day.

CNN has occupied its namesake building since 1987, when Ted Turner moved the network from its original home to the Techwood campus, where it was founded in 1980.

The move “was a spark that catalyzed development there,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN presenter. “This is where the Centennial Olympic Park was built. Over time, this has helped the rebirth of the city center. “

After Turner sold CNN to Time Warner in 1996, the network’s leaders and anchors began to move from Atlanta to New York. When New York-based Jeff Zucker took over CNN in 2013, he moved all of the week anchors from CNN to New York. Last year, WarnerMedia made a big investment in CNN’s Hudson Yards facility, a new mixed-use development in Manhattan.

Most recently, the CNN Center was largely empty, as many CNN employees have worked from home since the coronavirus pandemic in March. Many of these workers may not return to the office until next year. CNN also suspended its studio tour in March.

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The decision to sell CNN Center was taken years ago by Time Warner executives to cut costs, although the plan was not put in place until AT&T purchased Time Warner, a said Pascal Desroches, CFO of WarnerMedia, in a note on Monday. Desroches suggested that CNN Center could be redeveloped as an office building to place more emphasis on retail as part of the thriving downtown entertainment and tourism economy.

WarnerMedia may have already found a buyer for the CNN Center, as Desroches said in the memo, “We are not disclosing the sale price at this time.”


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