A television icon is about to be part of the cost savings and collateral damage of the Viacom-CBS merger.
Just three days after the long-awaited deal was approved, Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, confirmed the company will sell CBS' Manhattan headquarters, known as “Black Rock.” Bakish made it official at UBS TMT Conference in New York on Monday.
“Black Rock is not an asset we need to own,” Bakish said.
That will sting long-time CBS employees.
The building, at 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue, got its nickname from the dark granite slate that runs the length and surrounds the 38-floor structure. It was designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, who also was the force behind the Washington Dulles International Airport and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Construction started in 1961 and was completed in 1964, and it has been CBS’ corporate headquarters since. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1997.
Two years later, ABC moved into a 40-story tower it built two blocks north. With NBC on 50th Street, New York’s Sixth Avenue became known as “Broadcast Row” as the home of all three major networks were within four blocks of each other. ABC sold its building in 1986 to move to the Upper West Side.
CBS could lease back the space once the building is sold rather than move to the nearby Viacom building in Times Square. But it would be a far cry from the days when it took up most of the building’s 872,000 square feet with studios for its radio division, which merged with Entercom in 2017 and left CBS shareholders with 72 percent of the combined company. It also housed Columbia Records and its labels, now owned by Sony, and CBS Magazines, which sold for $650 million in 1987.
The pricetag for Black Rock will fill the merged company’s coffers judging by recent sales. In 2016, AXA and JP Morgan sold their nearby offices across the street from CBS for $1.65 billion. Last year, CBS sold its Los Angeles studio CBS Television City for $750 million.
At this time, there appear to be no plans to sell CBS Broadcast Center, homes to CBS News and Sports programs as well as daytime series on Manhattan’s West Side.