LifeWay letter of intent narrows potential buyers
    February 25 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

    LifeWay Christian Resources, continuing to move toward selling its 14.5-acre downtown Nashville complex, signed a letter of intent Feb. 23 with “a firm that represents a group of local and national developers.”
     
    A letter of intent, according to a LifeWay statement issued Feb. 24, is “a temporary legal arrangement allowing the seller and potential buyers time to concentrate their negotiations.”
     
    The LifeWay statement, issued by Marty King, director of corporate communications, noted that talks are ongoing “so it would be premature for us to discuss any elements of the negotiations or the businesses and individuals involved.”
     
    LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has analyzed “more than a dozen offers to purchase our property in downtown Nashville” and had eliminated several of the offers during the week of Feb. 17, King said. The SBC entity has “focused on a handful of possible buyers ... Several other potential buyers have been told their offers are on hold until current negotiations either move forward toward a contract or are dissolved.”
     
    King said LifeWay anticipates “a final decision in a few weeks, as we continue to seek the arrangement that provides the best stewardship of the resources with which LifeWay has been entrusted for more than 100 years.”
     
    LifeWay’s downtown campus includes nine buildings with more than 1 million square feet of office, warehouse and parking space. About 1,100 of LifeWay’s employees work in the downtown offices. The organization also oversees 186 stores and 4,300 employees in 29 states.

     
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    King could not confirm a story in the Nashville Business Journal reporting that the “potential purchase price could be as high as $125 million, according to one source with knowledge of negotiations.”
     
    The full text of the LifeWay statement follows this story.
     
    Last August, LifeWay began a preliminary feasibility study of selling its campus to relocate to facilities better suited to the ministry’s future. The entity was founded in 1891 as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
     
    Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president, said in a mid-January report that the results of the study by local design and consulting firm Gresham, Smith and Partners (GSP) “confirmed there was interest favorable enough for us to take another step.”
     
    LifeWay had conversations with local, regional and national entities about selling the property and accepted offers through mid-January.
     
    Rainer said reasons to consider selling the property include:

    • Changes over the last 50 years in how LifeWay does ministry have created a need for workspaces that support LifeWay’s technologies, strategies and culture now and in the future.

    • LifeWay uses only one-third of its current space.

    • The opportunity to build a new facility designed specifically for the ministries LifeWay provides now and in the future.

    If the property is sold, Rainer voiced a “very strong preference” for LifeWay to remain in downtown Nashville, which has become a vibrant urban hub. Gresham, Smith and Partners will help determine the size and type of space LifeWay needs to serve churches more effectively and efficiently, Rainer said. Planners estimate construction of a new building would take at least two years.
     
    “Most of our current space was designed and built in the middle of the last century and for a much different work environment,” Rainer said in January. “We need a workplace designed to support the technologies, collaboration, and culture needed for today’s and tomorrow’s successful national and international ministry.”
     
    Last August, Rainer cited demand for property in the downtown area and fewer employees now working at its corporate offices as reasons for studying a possible sale.
     
    “... It would be poor stewardship for the organization not to explore the possibilities this situation could present for our ministry,” Rainer said in an Aug. 1 letter to LifeWay’s staff.
     
    LifeWay, he said, could choose to sell only a portion of its property; or sell all of its downtown campus and move outside the city, either into existing facilities or begin new construction. Rainer described the possibility of moving outside of middle Tennessee as “remote.”
     
    In the letter, Rainer addressed changes in the publishing industry and noted that more of LifeWay’s employees work outside Nashville than at its corporate offices.
     
    “Our needs have changed,” he said. “We no longer print and package our resources on the first floor of the Operations Building and then put them on a conveyor belt running under Broadway to the U.S. Post Office.
     
    “That post office building is now an art center, our printing is done all over the country, our assembly and shipping is centered in new facilities in Lebanon, [Tenn.], and [the Operations Building] sits mostly empty. We have been unable to even lease the space.”
     
    While LifeWay leases unused office space in its Frost Building along with the adjacent parking lot, Rainer said, hundreds of offices on its campus remain vacant.
     
    The full text of the LifeWay statement on signing a letter of intent follows:
     
    February 24, 2015
     
    LifeWay signs letter of intent, negotiations continue
     
    LifeWay Christian Resources has analyzed more than a dozen offers to purchase our property in downtown Nashville. Last week LifeWay eliminated several of the offers and focused on a handful of possible buyers.
     
    Yesterday LifeWay signed a letter of intent with a firm that represents a group of local and national developers formed for this project.
     
    A letter of intent is a temporary legal arrangement allowing the seller and potential buyers time to concentrate their negotiations. Those talks are ongoing so it would be premature for us to discuss any elements of the negotiations or the businesses and individuals involved.
     
    Several other potential buyers have been told their offers are on hold until current negotiations either move forward toward a contract or are dissolved.
     
    We anticipate a final decision in a few weeks, as we continue to seek the arrangement that provides the best stewardship of the resources with which LifeWay has been entrusted for more than 100 years.
     
    Marty King
    LifeWay Spokesman
    Director of Corporate Communications
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
     

    Related Story:

    LifeWay unveils future plans

    2/25/2015 12:52:11 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
    Filed under: campus, LifeWay, property sale




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