Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, confirmed the company is proceeding with the divestiture during an appearance at the UBS TMT Conference in New York. He offered the update when asked by UBS analyst John Hodulik about any further M&A moves investors could anticipate.
“There’s a lot of noise about this,” Bakish said. “We don’t see any asset that we have to own. Will we look? Of course we’ll look.” In addition to buying back its shares and offering a dividend to shareholders, the company is looking to unload “non-core assets — real estate, other forms of assets,” Bakish said. “Black Rock is not an asset we need to own.”
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The building, designed in 1965 by Eeero Saarinen, cuts a distinctive figure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street. It has been the corporate headquarters of CBS for decades, playing host to board meetings and many pivotal strategic moments in the 92-year-old company’s history. Employees at Black Rock are in the corporate and administrative areas of CBS, with news and sports divisions maintaining studio space and offices on West 57th Street close to the Hudson River. CBS Interactive is based in the Madison Square Park area in a mid-rise building on 28th Street.
Viacom’s corporate headquarters is just a few blocks away from Black Rock, at 44th Street and Broadway, in the heart of Times Square. A significant amount of the $500 million in cost savings the company has projected will come by reducing overlap in the administrative and back-office areas of the combined entity. No numbers have emerged in terms of positions that could be affected, but the new company could likely get by with less office space in pricey Midtown Manhattan.
One possible scenario that has transpired for other companies seeking cost savings, like AT&T and WarnerMedia, could see a lease-back situation that would preserve CBS presence at Black Rock while enabling the company to shed the financial obligation of owning the space.