RJR Nabisco Inc. will move its headquarters to the metropolitan New York area from Atlanta, the food and tobacco giant announced Thursday, shortly after shareholders approved the record $24.53-billion buyout of the company by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
RJR Nabisco said its new chairman, Louis Gerstner Jr., sent a letter to employees saying the plans of the firm can “best be achieved by maintaining close ongoing contact with the investment banking community and other New York-based segments of the business community.”
The letter said relocations could begin by early summer and would be completed by the end of the year. Some existing corporate functions may be reassigned to RJR Nabisco’s operating companies, the letter said.
May Be Layoffs
The company will decide during the next few weeks whether layoffs are necessary, said Pauline Howes, an RJR Nabisco spokeswoman.
“We are in the process of looking at staffing needs,” she said, adding, “There might be some functions and positions that might not remain with the company.”
There are about 450 RJR Nabisco employees in Atlanta, Howes said.
The move would be the second for RJR Nabisco corporate headquarters in recent years. Former RJR President F. Ross Johnson moved the headquarters from Winston-Salem to Atlanta after he took over following the merger of R. J. Reynolds Industries Inc. and Nabisco Brands Inc. in 1985.
After Gerstner, a former American Express executive, was named to head RJR Nabisco, it was speculated that he would move the company’s headquarters to the New York area. Gerstner lives in Connecticut, near New York City.
The exact location of RJR Nabisco’s headquarters was not announced. However, the firm’s Nabisco Brands division is based in New Jersey, also near New York.
Earlier Thursday, RJR Nabisco shareholders formally approved the buyout by Kohlberg Kravis at a special meeting in Wilmington, Del.
Company officials said about 85% of RJR Nabisco’s shares were voted in favor of the merger, which will take effect today.