'End to a huge era': Pitney Bowes sells headquarters
'End to a huge era': Pitney Bowes sells headquartersOlivia Just, Stamford Advocate, 8/14/2013, originalSTAMFORD -- Pitney Bowes, a company with roots that run deep in the Stamford community, has sold its headquarters and is looking for a new home in the area. Staying in Stamford is a strong possibility, the company said.
Marc Lautenbach, president and CEO of the communications technology company, announced in a letter to employees on Wednesday that Pitney Bowes is selling its international headquarters, at 1 Elmcroft Road, deep in Stamford's South End. The company would not disclose the buyer.
"We believe this is the right decision as we continue to look for ways to unlock the value of the company," Lautenbach wrote. "We are taking this action only after thorough analysis of the operational efficiencies and economic benefits, as well as thoughtful consideration for the approximately 550 employees located here in Stamford."
Starting in the first quarter of 2014, Pitney Bowes will move employees to company offices in Shelton and Danbury, as the corporation pursues a suitable new headquarters. Lautenbach said the search will include Stamford, as well as other locations in Fairfield and Westchester counties. In his letter, there was no indication yet of whether any job losses will figure into the company's move.
The building Pitney is vacating, a cavernous, five-story office compound with 442,455-square feet of space, was built in the early 1980s and sits close to Stamford's waterfront. The first company employees filtered into the building in November 1985, relocated from other sites in Stamford and New Canaan.
"The Stamford community, and this iconic building, will always be a rich part of our heritage," said Pitney Bowes spokesperson Carol Wallace. "In the coming months, we will be looking at our options to identify a new headquarters that is modern and open."
The decision to move operations to another location is indicative of the ebb and flow of the economy and its impact on venerable corporations like Pitney Bowes, said Christopher Bruhl, CEO and president of the Business Council of Fairfield County, which has had a long relationship with the mail technology company.
"It's the nature of a dynamic economy. Companies' needs change. We saw Xerox move (from Stamford) to Norwalk," he said. "We're confident that Connecticut can compete successfully to retain the headquarters. There's a nice supply of buildings on line in this region."
Noting Bridgewater Associates' plans to move its headquarters from Westport to Building and Land Technology's Harbor Point development in Stamford, Bruhl stressed the importance of the investment firm following through with the project.
"It would behoove the people in Stamford to get the process together and get construction started," he said.
One of Stamford's oldest companies, Pitney Bowes' growth and fortunes have always been closely woven with the city's history. In 1920, Arthur Pitney and Walter Bowes joined forces to create the corporation, merging their respective firms under one company umbrella in Stamford. Pitney patented his first postage-stamping machine in 1902 in Stamford and formed the American Postage Meter Company, while the English-born Bowes provided his stamp-canceling machines to the U.S. Postal Service in 1908 and ran the Universal Stamping Machine Company until the merger took place.
Walter Wheeler Drive in the city's South End is named for the company's longtime president and chairman who championed civil rights and diversity in the workplace.
"It's truly an end to a huge era in Stamford," said Laure Aubuchon, Stamford's director of economic development. "We knew they were repositioning the company and making decisions to go into new areas. They had reduced their headcount. This doesn't totally surprise me."
But Aubuchon said it is curious about who bought the building at 1 Elmcroft Road and what its plans are for the building. Pitney Bowes has not yet released details of the building's buyer or its potential future uses.
As digital communications have far outstripped traditional mail, and the U.S. Postal Service itself has faced struggles, Pitney Bowes has adapted its business strategies to include software for location intelligence, geocoding, data quality and integration and color printing systems, along with the traditional mail services, as their website indicates.
Nevertheless, the company was hit hard after the nation's economy tanked five years ago, reporting a net loss of $58 million on revenues of $1.7 billion in February of 2008. Pitney's Stamford workforce, which was 1,200 strong in 2007, numbers at approximately 550 today, as Lautenbach noted in his letter. In the company's latest earnings report, filed on June 30, they reported a net loss of $9.23 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with a net gain of $99.6 million, or 50 cents per share, in the same period in 2012.
Lautenbach joined the company at the start of 2013, replacing Murray Martin as the company's chief executive. Lautenbach, an Old Greenwich resident, has invested $1 million of his personal fortune in Pitney Bowes.
"Finally, we are making progress against our goals and objectives and our strategy is resonating with our clients around the world," Lautenbach wrote at the close of his letter. "I am excited about the future and look forward to celebrating our successes together."