By Douglas Sams and Maria Saporta
Friday, June 24, 2011
Media giant Time Warner Inc. is considering Atlanta for a key business unit that could involve up to 1,000 jobs.
The project is part of Time Warner’s plan to reorganize key divisions to help the company operate more efficiently. That could include grouping information technology, human resources and other back office operations, or “shared services,” in central locations. Those operations reside within various business units, and the company wants to eliminate redundancies across its divisions.
Atlanta, Rochester, N.Y., and Tampa, Fla., are in the running, according to people familiar with the process.
If Atlanta won the Time Warner operation, it could mark the largest influx of jobs to the metro area since NCR Corp. moved its corporate headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, to Duluth, Ga., in 2009, relocating more than 1,000 employees.
Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) will start touring buildings in up to five East Coast cities within the next month and could have a commitment for the project in place by early August.
“We have a shared services initiative under way,” said Keith Cocozza, vice president of corporate communications for Time Warner in New York. “But, it’s too early in the process to discuss any details.”
Atlanta might be a natural choice. Time Warner’s largest division, Turner Broadcasting System Inc., is based here. TBS employed 6,700 in Atlanta at the end of 2010. TBS has two major facilities in Atlanta, CNN Center and its entertainment channels on 10th Street.
Time Warner built key relationships with city leaders and its top executives over the years. It knows the strengths of Atlanta’s workforce, which features a large talented pool of high-tech workers.
A large consolidation will be expensive for Time Warner, a media company made up of television holdings such as Turner Broadcasting, HBO and magazines.
Tampa is also in consideration because its home to a significant Time Warner operation. Time Inc.’s U.S. magazines administer subscription fulfillment from a central office in Tampa.
The company’s headquarters are housed in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center.
Time Warner is considering relocating its headquarters to Manhattan’s west side, but it’s not considering New York as an option for its shared services consolidation. The company is seeking less expensive real estate for that project.
Atlanta might have an edge there.
The South’s largest city offers relatively low costs for class A real estate, an advantage that has historically proven effective at landing similar corporate projects.
Because of overdevelopment of commercial real estate since the economy faltered in 2008, Atlanta has an abundance of buildings from downtown to the suburbs whose owners are offering prospective tenants steep concessions to fill millions of square feet of vacant office space.
Time Warner will most likely consider an existing building, though that might change if a developer can pitch a new tower at an attractive cost, people familiar with the process said.
Atlanta hasn’t seen a new office tower developed since 2008 — the longest construction lull anyone can remember.
Incentives will play a critical role in the project.
Other cities might have the early lead to land the Time Warner unit because they are offering higher tax concessions, according to people with direct knowledge of the process.
They asked to remain anonymous because Time Warner has not authorized them to speak about the project.
Georgia has incentives geared to large employers that it could use to lure the company, according to state economic development officials.
Atlanta also might appeal to Time Warner executives that would help make up the new business unit.
It would offer access to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the entertainment and cultural amenities of Midtown and downtown.
Like other corporations in the wake of the Great Recession, Time Warner has made operating more efficiently a top priority. That started with its IT operations. Earlier this month, it named Bill Krivoshik as chief information officer.
The move puts him in charge of the company’s IT strategy and shared services initiative.
Time Warner could help ignite what has been a listless Atlanta job market over much of the past year. Of the 12 largest metro regions, Atlanta has lost the most jobs from April 2010 to April 2011 (9,000), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While Time Warner won’t immediately relocate 1,000 employees, it could phase them into the regional office over several years.
Time Warner is the latest company to eye Atlanta for a major regional office or headquarters.
Last year, after negotiating to relocate its headquarters to Atlanta, software maker Red Hat Inc. decided to remain in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina offered Red Hat about $15 million in incentives.
In 2010, metro Atlanta saw a string of headquarters relocations and consolidations.
They included mobile phone giant Sony Ericsson; the Belgian solar company Enfinity Corp.; tax advisory firm CCH Small Firm Services; and aluminum giant Novelis Inc.
Time Warner Inc.
Headquarters: Time Warner Center, New York
Divisions/Brands: Turner Broadcasting; Warner Bros.; HBO; Time Inc.
CEO: Jeff Bewkes