Verizon Communications Inc., which has been in discussions with New York and New Jersey over whether to keep its headquarters in Manhattan, has put out feelers to Virginia as well.
Verizon, the nation's largest phone company, is planning to sell at least part of its 42-story headquarters on Sixth Avenue in New York, spokesman Eric Rabe said yesterday. The company also has other buildings near Wall Street and routinely looks for ways to consolidate its offices, said Rabe, who declined to discuss details of a potential move.
Although Verizon's talks have centered on staying in New York or moving to neighboring New Jersey, state officials in Virginia confirmed yesterday that they have had initial contacts with the company about relocating some of its corporate offices.
"Virginia is actively involved in the process of recruiting Verizon to Virginia," said Ellen Qualls, press secretary to Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D.)
Real estate brokers in Virginia said Verizon has approached them about finding 450,000 to 500,000 square feet in Northern Virginia -- enough to house corporate operations for about 2,000 people. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of such real estate negotiations.
Depending on its scale, a relocation by Verizon could involve as many as 5,000 jobs, including some of the 2,800 people who work out of Verizon's Manhattan headquarters, plus 2,500 people who work for Verizon Wireless, which is based in Bedminster, N.J.
New York has been negotiating with Verizon to keep its headquarters in Manhattan, said Michael Sherman, communications director for the New York City Economic Development Corp. "Senior management, marketing, legal, finance -- these are all things that are best suited for New York," Sherman said.
New Jersey talks have centered on a complex of seven connected buildings in Basking Ridge vacated by AT&T Corp. two years ago, according to government officials. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. now owns those buildings and is trying to sell them.
Discussing Verizon's plans, David Wald, a spokesman for Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) said: "They are thinking of merging wireless with corporate and moving either here [to New Jersey] or Virginia."
Verizon's relations with New Jersey have been tense. The company postponed plans to upgrade its fiber-optic network in the state after utilities regulators this year granted the company only a modest increase in what it could charge rivals to connect to its network. "Fundamentally, New Jersey is not a good place to do business when you have a regulatory climate that makes it harder," Rabe said. Verizon faces fewer regulatory obstacles in Virginia, he said.
Talks between Verizon and Virginia are still at an early stage.
CB Richard Ellis, one of the largest commercial real estate services companies in the country, is helping Verizon search for space close to the District, most likely in Alexandria or in the former Patent & Trademark offices in Crystal City, a real estate industry source said.
Verizon's interest in moving was reported last week in the Record of Bergen County.
Verizon was formed in 2000 with the merger of GTE Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp., which was based in Philadelphia but maintained a major corporate office in Arlington. Since the merger it has reduced its staff from 260,000 to 208,000 people.
With its traditional phone business shrinking, Verizon is trying to save money on square footage as well as on taxes, said Susan Kalla, an analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey & Co. The company could be trying to sell as much as half of its $30 billion in property, Blake Bath, an analyst with Lehman Brothers, wrote in a research report published last week.
Staff writers Michael D. Shear and Dana Hedgpeth and staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.