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Bank of America to sell two MBNA-built HQ trophy properties

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By Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

Bank of America is listing two of its three downtown headquarters buildings for sale, the Delaware Business Times learned today, having donated a fourth to support the expansion of charter schools in Delaware.

However, no headcount reduction is anticipated as a result of the consolidation, and Bank of America’s employment rolls will remain stable with nearly 7,000 employees in Delaware, 1,200 of them reportedly in the City of Wilmington.

Listed for sale is the “trophy” HQs building Bracebridge I overlooking Rodney Square from 1100 N. King Street that housed the MBNA executive suite headed by MBNA founder Charles Cawley. Also listed for sale is the building behind it, Bracebridge III, fronting at 1100 N. French Street.

CBRE is the broker of record, charged with listing and selling the property.

Bank of America’s management and administrative teams – no call centers are in the downtown location – will be transferred into the remaining Bracebridge II building at 1020 N. French St., as the Bracebridge I and III buildings are sold. Bank of America in 2012 donated Bracebridge IV on French Street to the DuPont family’s Longwood Foundation, which operates it as a campus for several city-based charter schools.

The Bracebridge complex of four buildings were part of the stunningly ambitious redevelopment vision of Cawley when he moved headquarters of the fast-growing credit card company from its start-up site in Ogletown to Wilmington, where it quickly became a leading employer in the city.

Bank of America acquired MBNA in a $35 billion purchase in 2005, taking title to its assets including its Delaware headquarters, early in 2006.

Over time, Bank of America reduced its emphasis on the affinity group marketing of credit cards as it converted the MBNA portfolio to Bank of America. However, successor companies like Prepaidian, launched by former MBNA executives Jim Shanahan and Bob Brechter affinity marketing of reloadable prepaid debit card, have sprung up, part of the robust economic development in FinTech, or financial technology.

As similar corporate monoliths in many industries have downsized, employment globally at the Bank of America has declined from about 280,000 at its peak to about 200,000 today, although little of that has occurred in Delaware.

By contrast, the DuPont Company in the 1970s employed about 150,000 people worldwide (not including Conoco, which it bought early in the 1980s and sold in the 1990s), and it has downsized to about 50,000 employees, perhaps fewer, today, many by attrition, many others through spinoffs like Chemours (chemicals), Axalta (paint business), Invista (fibers business) and others.

 “We remain quite committed to the City specifically and the State more broadly,” said Tony Allen, a spokesman for Bank of America.

 “We value Bank of America as a good corporate citizen with an excellent social conscience,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “The company has been and will continue to be good for and to Wilmington. This is a business decision on their part that does not in any way diminish their commitment to Wilmington and to Delaware. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Bank of America.”

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