AT&T Buys CNN Center From State To Pave Way For Impending Sale
A telecommunications giant, in the process of spinning off WarnerMedia, has purchased the ground beneath its feet at CNN Center.
AT&T, which owns Turner Broadcasting Systems through its 2018 purchase of WarnerMedia, acquired the land and air rights from the state of Georgia for $18.8M. WarnerMedia subsidiary CNN Center Ventures acquired the land, which it leased from the state in April 1973 in order to develop the iconic Downtown Atlanta property, according to deed records obtained by Bisnow.
Georgia State Properties Commission Deputy Executive Director Frank Smith confirmed the sale, which comes nearly a year after AT&T's WarnerMedia subsidiary, which operates CNN, HBO and other properties, announced plans to sell the iconic 1.2M SF CNN Center complex.
In the deal, the media company acquired the property's 2.3 acres as well as nearly an acre of air rights over CSX rail tracks that run beneath CNN Center.
"CNN Ventures exercised their option to purchase the State’s remaining interest in the property," Smith wrote in an email.
The sale would clear the way for a sale to CP Group — a Boca Raton, Florida-based real estate investment firm formerly known as Crocker Partners — which is in talks to buy CNN Center for an undisclosed sum, a source with knowledge of the deal told Bisnow Thursday. The Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported CP Group's ties to the property.
CP Group Managing Partner Angelo Bianco and partner Chris Eachus didn't return calls and emails seeking comment. WarnerMedia spokesperson Robert Wheeler declined to comment.
While most of CNN's actual newscasts are broadcast from New York and Washington, D.C., the cable news giant still operates its control rooms, production teams and CNN.com from CNN Center. Most of the complex's more than 1M SF is offices, but the center does house a 114K SF food court that is home to a Starbucks, a Chick-fil-A and a McCormick & Schmick's.
State Farm Arena, where the NBA's Atlanta Hawks play, is directly connected to the complex, but not part of either real estate transaction.
CNN Center was initially developed by Cousins Properties in 1976 as the Omni Complex, which included an arena for the Atlanta Hawks. Cousins founder Tom Cousins helped purchase the Hawks and brought the team to the city from St. Louis eight years earlier.
Broadcasting icon Ted Turner, who founded and led Turner Broadcasting Systems until 2003, and was on the board of directors for three years after that, launched CNN, the world's first 24-hour news station, in 1980. In 1986, Turner purchased the CNN Center complex for $21.8M, and a year later moved CNN's operations there. Turner sold CNN Center to another real estate investment firm in 1988 for $170M.
Turner Broadcasting's ownership has evolved since those early days. In 1996, Time Warner purchased Turner Broadcasting System, merging it into its media empire. Nearly three years ago, AT&T purchased Time Warner for $85B and rebranded it as WarnerMedia. That deal is now being unwound after AT&T decided to sell its WarnerMedia unit to Discovery, creating a new media giant in the process.
The value of the sale to CNN Ventures falls below the $20.5M Fulton County has assessed as the land's value in 2020, according to the Fulton County Board of Assessors' database. Including the building and the land at 190 Marietta St. NW, CNN Center was valued at $122.3M.