BASKING RIDGE, NJ-Vacant since it was sold to Pharmacia for $200 million two years ago, the seven-building, 1.3-million-sf former AT&T headquarters campus here is in play as a potential new headquarters for Verizon, according to sources. Pharmacia was gobbled up by Pfizer shortly after it bought the campus, and the latter subsequently decided it had no use for it.

According to sources, Verizon is looking to move its headquarters out of New York City, and is looking at options in both New Jersey and the Washington, DC area, specifically the Virginia suburbs. The telecom giant has quietly put its 40-story building on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on the market as a prelude to a possible move.

A Verizon spokesperson declined to comment on the possible move of its headquarters, but sources in the brokerage community say the company is looking at multiple locations in New Jersey’s Somerset, where the former AT&T campus is located, and Morris counties. Cushman & Wakefield of NJ, East Rutherford, has been marketing AT&T’s former facility, but a spokesperson for the firm contacted by similarly declined comment.

According to a published report, one scenario would include moving Verizon’s 2,800 staffers in Manhattan and combining them with the 2,600 Verizon Wireless people currently working in Bedminster, NJ, at the old AT&T site. Any move involving the Garden State would not affect Verizon’s New Jersey headquarters operation in Newark.

The one option that has state officials nervous and scrambling is the Virginia scenario, which could potentially include moving not only the 2,800 New York-based employees, but also the 2,600 Verizon Wireless staffers currently in Bedminster out of the region. While state officials won’t comment on the record, a source in Trenton confirms that US Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) has already met with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg to present the state’s case.

Verizon executives are also said to have had conversations with State Senate president Dick Codey (D-Essex County), which presents an interesting twist. Verizon’s relationship with the administration of Gov. James McGreevey has been frosty at best, mostly involving wholesale phone rates. But the latter’s scandal-marred tenure ends on Monday with his official resignation, and Codey will succeed him as acting governor.

A state official who did not want to be identified also tells that, “our people have met with Verizon management. We’ve talked to them about putting together an incentive package, but no specific deal has been offered. But we do feel that something will be on the table in the near future.”

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