BASKING RIDGE, NJ-The 10-building, 140-acre, 1.3-million-sf former AT&T headquarters campus here is officially on the block–again. Pfizer officials have just revealed that they have hired Cushman & Wakefield to find a buyer for one of the East Coast’s highest-profile pieces of real estate.

The speculation has been that Pfizer would try to sell the property, which it inherited when it bought competitor Pharmacia last year. AT&T’s consolidation to a smaller facility in nearby Bedminster sparked the earlier sale in June 2002, with Pharmacia paying $200 million for the trophy asset. AT&T had put its campus on the market in the fall of 2001 in the wake of major cutbacks.

Two weeks later, after Pharmacia bought the property, Pfizer and Pharmacia announced they had a deal to merge, with insiders suggesting that Pharmacia closed on the property in the late stages of merger talks as a bargaining chip to ramp up the merger price. That price ended up at roughly $60 billion.

In any case, “this is an incredible opportunity for a user to purchase the tri-state area’s highest-profile office property in the heart of one of the best labor pools in New Jersey,” says Andy Merin, EVP of C&W’s East Rutherford, NJ-based Metropolitan Area Financial Services Group. Merin, along with C&W vice chairman Charles Borrok and EVP Joshua Kuriloff, is heading the assignment.

According to Borrok, Pfizer is banking on changing corporate strategies to move the prominent asset. “We believe that the drive to consolidate operations, to create less duplication of certain roles, achieve operational cost savings and foster synergy under one roof, will be central in a company’s interest in the campus,” he explains.

Situated just off I-287 in Somerset County, the campus has a number of interesting amenities. Equipped to handle up to 5,000 employees, it has underground parking for 3,900 cars, a multi-purpose meeting room for up to 400 people, a two-story cafeteria, a fitness center, helipad, recreational fields and a seven-acre pond. The whole thing is capped off by a two-story lobby with a waterfall.

Despite putting the former AT&T campus on the market, Pfizer isn’t exactly eschewing the Garden State. Earlier this year the company announced plans to spend upwards of $400 million to grow its other holdings in the state, including expansions in Morris Plains, a facility it acquired when it bought Warner-Lambert a few years ago, and Peapack, which was part of Pharmacia’s holdings. Pfizer also recently took 113,000 sf at the Morris Corporate Center in Morris County, and another 160,000 sf at Five Wood Hollow Rd. in Parsippany, NJ.

An asking price has not been revealed, although AT&T originally asked for $260 million for it in late 2001 and accepted $200 million in mid-2002. The regional office market has deteriorated since then, with pockets showing vacancy rates approaching the 40% mark, although the vacant former AT&T campus is certainly part of that problem.

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