News International, publisher of the Sun and the Times, is to sell Wapping, the headquarters of its UK operations for 25 years.
The move was announced in an email to all News International staff on Monday lunchtime.
“Today, we announced that we are putting our 15-acre Wapping site up for sale,” the internal announcement said.
It added: “Taking into account the current property market and economic climate, we have decided to sell rather than redevelop the site and will remain in the TMS [Thomas More Square] buildings for the foreseeable future.”
News International said in a statement: “News International today announces it is putting its Wapping site up for sale. The decision to sell the 15-acre site follows a review of News International’s London property portfolio.
“The majority of News International’s Wapping-based editorial and commercial staff have now relocated into Thomas More Square with the remainder to be relocated by the end of 2011. Thomas More Square provides the company with excellent facilities and flexibility. As a result, and in light of current market conditions, News International has decided not to proceed with remodelling the Wapping site.”
Most of the office space up for sale has been empty for months, it is understood.
News International began a shift away from its east London headquarters in 2005, when it announced that its printing would move to regional bases in Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, Liverpool and Glasgow.
The move marks a significant change of direction. In November 2008, News Corporation shelved plans to move its international businesses – including Dow Jones, Harper Collins, 20th Century Fox, and MySpace – to Wapping because of the economic downturn.
Only three months before that, News International abandoned plans to sell its east London site and instead turn it into a “campus for UK businesses” by 2012. James Murdoch, News Corp.’s (NSDQ: NWS) deputy chief operating officer, described Wapping at the time as “not only important as a physical site, but also it is a symbol of how bold individuals, working together, can advance the world of media and thereby contribute to life in Britain”.
The site, dubbed “Fortress Wapping” after the fierce trade union dispute that blighted News International’s move from Fleet Street in 1986, has been home to the editorial staff behind the Sun, the Times and Sunday Times for 25 years. The News of the World was also based at Wapping until its closure in June as a result of the phone-hacking scandal.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.