Another titan of industry in Tysons Corner, Gannett, might depart its corporate headquarters as it splits into two companies and seeks cost savings.
Gannett, publisher of USA Today and other newspapers and media properties, will consider selling its headquarters and relocating, Chief Executive Gracia C. Martore told employees Tuesday.
Gannett’s headquarters comprise two Tysons Corner office towers it owns at 7960 Jones Branch Dr., a total of about 785,000 square feet. A possible move comes as Gannett prepares to split itself in two to better focus one company on digital and broadcasting businesses and the other on the flagship newspaper.
“This is part of our transition to more efficient use of our real estate across the company,” Gannett spokesman Jeremy Gaines said in an e-mail.
Gaines added the company plans to remain in the Washington area, but in selling its towers — a prominent sight from the Capital Beltway — Gannett could become the latest major employer to decide it no longer needs a large presence in Fairfax County, denting the county’s reputation as a landing spot for large corporations.
Contracting giant SAIC, after splitting into two companies, moved one of the two units from Tysons to Reston. Exxon Mobil plans to completely abandon its 117-acre Fairfax County campus this summer, moving many of the jobs to Houston. SAIC sold its campus to a developer; Exxon has been trying to sell its campus as well.
Speculation about whether Gannett would sell its headquarters has been swirling in recent years as the company restructured. Entities including the World Bank have considered buying the complex, but last winter Gannett’s brokers insisted that the property was not for sale and that the company would lease spare space.
That proved difficult as federal spending slows and government contractors cut back. Gannett found some tenants, but leasing slowed dramatically in recent years, with vacancy rates well above average in neighborhoods throughout Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
With the arrival of the Silver Line, building owners in Tysons have been somewhat spared. The vacancy rate in Tysons is 9.2 percent, compared to 13.6 in Northern Virginia, according to research firm Delta Associates. Other firms estimate Northern Virginia vacancy at above 15 percent.
By selling the buildings, Martore could create some cash upfront and take advantage of the slowdown in leasing, as The Washington Post did recently in selling its downtown headquarters and agreeing to lease space a few blocks away.
Gannett was ranked No. 481 on the Fortune 500 in 2014, one of a slew of Fortune 500 firms in Tysons, including Hilton Worldwide and Capital One. Gannett reported adjusted fourth quarter net income of $234.8 million, up 54 percent from a year ago.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz