ViacomCBS sells Black Rock building to Harbor Group for $760M

38-story Midtown skyscraper initially sought $1B+ before being pulled from market last year

51 West 52nd Street and Harbor Group CEO Jordan Slone (Google Maps, Harbor)
51 West 52nd Street and Harbor Group CEO Jordan Slone (Google Maps, Harbor)

ViacomCBS is known for its iconic franchises on TV and movie screens, but one of its best known assets will soon be leaving the entertainment conglomerate after decades.

Following half a century of ownership, the media giant is selling Black Rock, its 38-story office tower at 51 West 52nd Street, to Harbor Group International for $760 million, Variety reported.

At $760 million, the sale price would work out to approximately $874 per square foot.

Other tenants in the 870,000-square-foot building include the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which in 2018 renewed its lease for 250,000 square feet.

ViacomCBS, which occupies about one-third of the building, isn’t departing the tower entirely. The media conglomerate will be leasing back space in the building on a short-term basis, according to Variety.

ViacomCBS announced its intention to divest the 56-year-old Midtown skyscraper shortly after its formation in a merger between Viacom and CBS Corp. late in 2019. As of early last year, it was seeking more than $1 billion for the building, but postponed the sale and pulled it from the market shortly after the start of the pandemic. CBS had previously attempted to sell its longtime headquarters twice in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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HGI is already planning the future of the iconic building, defined by its gray granite exterior. The company plans to create a capital program to set up the building for future long-term leasing and intends to update various parts of the building, including the lobby, the cafeteria and various amenities for tenants, according to Variety.

The purchase is expected to close by the end of this year.

Completed in 1965, the landmarked building was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and includes views of Central Park and the Museum of Modern Art.

After the ViacomCBS merger closed, the company undertook a strategic review of its “non-core assets” in an attempt to cut costs by around $500 million.

ViacomCBS plans to use the proceeds from the Black Rock sale towards growth opportunities, including its streaming service Paramount+, CFO Naveen Chopra said in a statement.

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[Variety] — Holden Walter-Warner