WarnerMedia plans to sell the historic CNN Center in downtown Atlanta — the building attacked last month during a wave of protests — as parent AT&T looks to shed assets to help pare down its massive debt.
Plans to unload the property following the AT&T-Time Warner merger had been put on hold but resurfaced Monday in memo to CNN staffers. It’s a time of new ownerships and real estate shifts in the media world, with ViacomCBS also in the market to sell off the fabled CBS Black Rock building in New York City.
“We are consolidating our WarnerMedia Atlanta operations in our recently renovated and redesigned Techwood campus. This will increase collaboration and optimize use of Techwood, which was created to be a state-of-the-art hub for our diverse business portfolio. As part of these changes we are selling the CNN Center, which is a retail center, well positioned in the downtown entertainment area of the city. Once sold, we will lease back the property for a minimum of five years. There will be no immediate impact to employees working at the CNN Center,” WarnerMedia said in a statement.
“Now that we’ve had time to further evaluate, we’ve concluded that the best course of action is to sell the CNN Center,” the company said in a memo to employees. It will centralize most employees at its location in Techwood complex, also in Atlanta. It said the transition process would be “lengthy.”
It acknowledged the gravitas of such a sale, saying, “We recognize the historical relevance of the CNN Center. Ted Turner was a true pioneer who reinvented media when he launched the 24-hour news channel in 1980.”
“WarnerMedia was proud to play a part in solidifying Ted’s legacy last December with the dedication of our Techwood campus to him, the unveiling of a commissioned mural portrait on our campus and a donation to the University of Georgia, in partnership with the Turner Family and Turner Enterprises, that established the Ted Turner Exhibition Hall & Gallery at UGA’s library, the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund and the Ted Turner Maverick internship.”
The CNN Center was attacked by demonstrators who broke windows and threw firecrackers on May 29 in the midst of heated protests after the killing of George Floyd.
AT&T had planned to sell $10 billion in assets this year, a move that was in part stymied so far by the coronavirus pandemic. It has over $150 billion debt, inflated by the Time Warner acquisition. It sold Central European Media last year for $2.1 billion, as well as its stakes in Hulu, Hudson Yards offices and other real estate and cell towers. It was also reported to be looking to unload Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment video game division.
“A part of efficiently running a business is constantly examining the operations to make sure we’re making the best use of our assets, including real estate,” the memo said.