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The Globe and Mail

Time Warner kicks off possible sale of N.Y. headquarters

People walk in front of the Time Warner Inc. building in New York in a file photo. Time Warner is considering selling its New York headquarters and has asked real estate brokers to evaluate the building’s value, according to sources.


Time Warner Inc. is considering selling its New York headquarters and has asked real estate brokers to evaluate the building's value, potentially giving up on a monument to the dot-com era.

One source said the company could still hang onto its portion of the Time Warner Center, a complex that chief executive Jeff Bewkes once called an "indulgence."

Time Warner's 1.1-million-square-foot headquarters is part of the larger Time Warner Center, which the company now known as AREA Property Partners and Related Cos. finished in Manhattan's Columbus Circle neighbourhood in 2004.

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The developers began building the complex soon after the media company announced its plan to combine with America Online in 2000. The development was originally to be known as the AOL Time Warner Center, but the "AOL" part was dropped by the time it opened in 2004.

The company's headquarters are in the south tower, which is topped with residential condominiums. The other tower houses condominiums and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. They are connected by an upscale shopping mall.

In all, Time Warner owns or occupies space in 15 buildings in the New York metropolitan area, with 10 in Manhattan. The $47-billion (U.S.) media giant owns the Warner Brothers movie studio, cable news channel CNN, premium TV service HBO, Turner Broadcasting and Time Inc.

Many media companies in New York have been on the move or plan to within the next couple of years. The most notable is Condé Nast Publications Inc., which plans to consolidate its operations and move to One World Trade Center in 2014.

Other companies have sold the real estate they own to raise cash. On Jan. 17, Japan's Sony Corp., which has a major U.S. film and TV studio, said it would sell its U.S. headquarters building in New York City for $1.1-billion, the highest price paid for a single U.S. office building in two years.

Time Warner is considering a wide range of options, including hanging on to the headquarters, selling the space and leasing it back, moving more employees into the headquarters and closing other New York offices, or moving out entirely, two sources said on Wednesday.

"There's a difference in value in sale-lease back or whether they just vacate the property," said Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics, a real estate research firm. "If they decide to sell that vacant block you get pricing approaching or surpassing $1,000 a square foot."

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If Time Warner intends to lease it back, then the value would be linked to rent and the length of lease that Time Warner is willing to commit to.

Time Warner has been evaluating its real estate needs for at least a year and said it hopes to finalize a plan by the end of 2013.

The conglomerate has been making changes to some of its most high-profile divisions in recent weeks.

It is currently overhauling ratings-starved news channel CNN under new leadership. On Wednesday, Time Inc., the magazine unit of Time Warner, said it was cutting about 500 jobs, about 6 per cent of its total staff.

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