Merck puts Whitehouse Station HQ on the block

Merck's global headquarters is wearing a "For Sale" sign. The company said last year that it would pack up and leave Whitehouse Station, NJ, in a money-saving move. But now, the million-square-foot campus is officially on the market.

As The Star-Ledger reports, the Merck ($MRK) campus has an expansive cafeteria, 250-seat auditorium, fully equipped fitness center, basketball and tennis courts, a childcare center, and--essentially for jet-setting executives--a helipad. Merck hired Cushman & Wakefield to broker the sale, and the real estate firm figures the campus will either become another company's HQ or be "positioned for innovative reuse."

The headquarters exodus is just one of the sweeping changes Merck plans. The company announced last week that it would cut 8,500 more jobs in a full-scale revamp of R&D and commercial activities. The announcement follows a 13,000-job restructuring plan unveiled last year. It also included some new relocation news: Rather than moving from Whitehouse Station to Summit, NJ, the headquarters will join Merck's other operations in nearby Kenilworth.

There's plenty of pharma precedent to consult. Pfizer ($PFE) made a deal last August to sell its research operation in Sandwich, England, to a private consortium that had already redeveloped a former Samsung site into a business park. Merck Serono's Geneva headquarters, vacated by the drugmaker last year, was picked up by a couple of Swiss billionaires intent on turning the facility into a biotech hub.

And there are a host of other drugmaker facilities for potential buyers to choose from. AstraZeneca ($AZN) has put two buildings in Fairfax, DE, up for sale as it shrinks its own footprint there. The drugmaker has said it plans to split that campus in two and consolidate on the north side. Like Merck's, AZ's for-sale site includes a cafeteria, basketball and tennis courts, and a solar installation--plus a hair salon and conference center. Meanwhile, Roche ($RHHBY) has hired an architect to come up with a master plan for its Nutley, NJ, site. The company and local officials want to redevelop the 119-acre site; just how isn't yet clear, though housing and retail aren't popular solutions.

- read the Star-Ledger piece

Special Reports: Top 10 Pharma Layoffs of 2012 - Merck KGaA | Top Pharma Companies by 2012 Revenues - Merck

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