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RJR Headquarters May Wind Up A Blip In Atlanta’s Business History

December 2, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ Less than two years after its much-heralded move to Atlanta, the corporate headquarters of RJR Nabisco Inc. may be moving again, leaving little mark on the city’s business history.

RJR Nabisco’s board of directors shocked their hometown, Winston-Salem, N.C., in January 1987 by announcing the move of corporate headquarters to metropolitan Atlanta.

Wednesday, the food-and-tobacco giant’s board officially picked corporate takeover kings Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. as the company’s new owner. And Kohlberg Kravis has said it would like to move RJR Nabisco’s headquarters back to Winston-Salem.

Such a move would not have the impact on Atlanta that losing one of its other corporate giants - such as Delta Air Lines or Coca-Cola - would have.

RJR Nabisco only brought some 300 headquarters employees to rented luxury office space in Cobb County, just north of the city.

Most RJR Nabisco workers in the Atlanta area aren’t even at the headquarters. Among them are 750 at Nabisco’s plant in Atlanta’s Oakland City community. There has been no indication that Nabisco’s manufacturing operations in the area would be affected immediately by the Kohlberg Kravis takeover.

Thus, Atlanta leaders took the idea of an RJR headquarters pullout in stride.

″We certainly have appreciated having RJR’s corporate headquarters in the Atlanta area,″ Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young said Thursday in a statement released by his office. ″Should they decide to relocate, I remain confident that the high-employment facilities in the Atlanta area will remain.″

In its nearly two years here, RJR Nabisco has not become an integral part of life in the city for most Atlantans outside the big-business community. The company has no landmark presence, no giant tower on the city skyline.

″It’s been a corporate presence,″ said Barry King, vice president for communications for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. ″In the Fortune 500... they’re very high, and that’s been important for Atlanta to be perceived as a major headquarters city.

″But we still have the Nabisco presence here, and...in economic impact, it would be minimal; there’s only 300 employees in the headquarters that’s potentially moving.″

RJR Nabisco picked Atlanta as its new home primarily because of the business climate and the proximity to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, one of the world’s largest airports.

King said those factors still might prompt RJR Nabisco to stay.

″It remains to be seen what the final decision would be,″ he said. ″We think Atlanta has still got the same qualities that attracted RJR to this city in the first place.″

RJR Nabisco’s spokeswoman in Atlanta, Polly Howes, said it was too early for headquarters staffers to talk about where they might be headed.

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