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Column: Delta plans significant increase in charitable giving

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 26, 2016

Delta Air Lines, already a significant contributor in the community, is announcing a major increase in its giving.

In a telephone interview on Feb. 24, Delta President Ed Bastian said the airline is announcing to employees that it will make an annual commitment to donate 1 percent of its net profits earned in the previous year.

Greenberg Traurig realigns leadership of booming Atlanta office

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 19, 2016

High-profile Atlanta lawyer Ernest Greer is becoming co-president of Greenberg Traurig LLP, a move that will realign the leadership of the law firm’s Atlanta office.

Greer, who served as chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2014, will continue to be based in Atlanta although most of his duties will now focus on client development on a national and international scale.

Column: Citizens Trust Bank set to make historic move

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on January 29, 2016

For nearly 50 years, Citizens Trust Bank has been an anchor at 75 Piedmont Avenue a block from Auburn Avenue.

But the bank will be relocating its headquarters to 230 Peachtree St. in early February — marking a significant move for both the bank and the city.

“It’s really bittersweet,” said Cynthia Day, president and CEO of Citizens Trust Bank. “What I’ve said to my employees is we are changing our location, but we are not changing our mission or our legacy. We will carry that with us.”

Adair school

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed agrees to transfer 10 property deeds to APS

Given the new spirit of cooperation between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Public Schools, Mayor Kasim Reed said he is willing to transfer 10 property deeds to the school system.

Reed, speaking at the State of the City business breakfast Thursday morning at the Georgia World Congress Center, said he would ask the Atlanta City Council to transfer those deeds “right away.”

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Commentary: Underground Atlanta sale is a deal city can’t miss

T. Scott Smith

Developer T. Scott Smith is willing to invest up to $400 million to revitalize Underground Atlanta and its surrounding area. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Intro: The city of Atlanta’s sale of Underground Atlanta to a developer from South Carolina for $25.75 million was supposed to have closed on Sept. 30. Instead, both parties delayed the closing until Jan. 15 because the complicated real estate deal has run into some hurdles.Mayor Kasim Reed describes them as “solvable.”

Developer T. Scott Smith is willing to invest up to $400 million to revitalize Underground Atlanta and its surrounding area.

And he is anxious to take ownership of the property. Right now his company is managing the Underground retail center for the city but receiving no fees for the work. That’s only one reason he wants the deal to close.

Smith also wants to begin developing high-rise residential towers, a grocery store and other retail on the above ground area while revitalizing the historic storefronts and old city that we know as Underground.

But the state of Georgia owns a parking lot that sits between Underground and Georgia State University ─ a key bridge for the project. The city promised it would acquire the parking lot from the state so it could be incorporated in the overall development.

But securing that parking lot has proven to be more difficult than the mayor originally thought.

Underground is one of several signature projects that Mayor Reed wants to get completed during his term.

It should be the first to get done. The retail and entertainment complex has been a drag on the city’s books for years. And it sits at what is the most significant intersection in Atlanta ─ where MARTA’s two main lines cross. It is the heart of Atlanta.

Because of long-held perceptions by Atlantans against the Five Points MARTA Station and Underground Atlanta, it took an out-of-town developer to see the opportunity of this nexus.

If this deal were to fall through, there’s no telling how long that would set us back as a city or as a downtown.

Mayor Reed does have a lot on his plate, with redevelopment of Turner Field and the Atlanta Civic Center. But the city would be well-served if he focused on solving the problems related to the Underground deal before he moves on to anything else.

This one is too important to let slip away.

Credit Justin Taylor / flickr.com/bludgeoner86

Coca-Cola merger plans create uncertainty for Atlanta

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

What a week for the Coca-Cola Company!

This week brought a lot of news on the Coca-Cola front. Credit Justin Taylor / flickr.com/bludgeoner86

This week brought a lot of news on the Coca-Cola front.
Credit Justin Taylor / flickr.com/bludgeoner86

First, Coca-Cola Enterprises announced a merger that will lead to Atlanta having one less Fortune 500 company but would make the company the largest independent bottler of Coca-Cola’s products.

Then the Coca-Cola company announced a new president and COO, a position that has not existed since 2007. James Quincey clearly is being positioned as the possible successor to Muhtar Kent after he retires.

Whenever a pebble is thrown into the Coca-Cola pond, it sends ripples, if not waves, of concern in Atlanta. Few cities and companies are more intertwined than Coca-Cola and Atlanta, a relationship that dates back to 1886.

It’s amazing Atlanta has been CCE’s headquarters this long. By 2010, the bottler’s business was totally in Europe.

But Atlanta never likes the prospect of losing a Fortune 500 company.

And even more importantly, there are few executives who have been more involved in the community than Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock. He has chaired the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and he currently chairs Georgia Tech’s capital campaign and the Commerce Club board. His wife, Mary Brock, also has ties to the community as a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA basketball team. Brock is slated to become the CEO of the new Coca-Cola European Partners – which will be based in London.

But it is not yet known what will happen to the 125 CCE headquarter employees in Atlanta or the future relationship between the Brocks and Georgia.

At 67, Brock could be looking to complete the merger – which is expected to close in mid-2016 – before retiring from the company.

Meanwhile, James Quincey is planning to move from London to Atlanta later this fall. Although Quincey began his Coca-Cola career in Atlanta in 1996, he has worked mostly outside the United States, in Latin America and Europe.

But Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent said Thursday there is no cause for concern.

“We are all deeply committed to our home of 129 years,” Kent said in a call with reporters.

After all, Kent reminded reporters that, when he returned to Atlanta to run the company in 2007, he’d been away for 25 years and had only spent a year working at the headquarters.

For his part, Quincey said he was looking forward to getting reacquainted with Atlanta, saying the weather will be warmer than London.

Atlanta has weathered leadership changes at the Coca-Cola Co. multiple times over the years.

So here we go again.