American Bible Society Moving With $300 Million In The Bank

After almost two centuries in New York City, the American Bible Society (ABS) has sold its headquarters for $300 million and plans to move to Philadelphia this summer.

The new headquarters will be located in Philadelphia’s historic district, encompassing nearly 100,000 square feet of leased space on the eighth and nine floors of 401 Market St. The vast majority of the roughly 180 employees in the New York and Valley Forge, Pa., offices are being invited to relocate to the Philadelphia headquarters but there’s no final count yet on how many can make the transition. ABS expects to “maintain a presence” in New York.

The organization also has proposed creating a Bible Discovery Center on the first floor as well as a conference center, Rare Scriptures Depository and scholarly working library on the concourse. The Bible Discovery Center, which would provide quick access to 5th Street — the center point of Independence Mall — is being explored for a 2016 opening. ABS is one of the oldest charities in the country, with its bicentennial coming in 2016.

Philadelphia was selected based on a number of factors, including strategic collaboration opportunities, affordability and livability. One of the ministry’s founders and its first president, Elias Boudinot, was a native son of Philadelphia.

ABS has been in the 12-story headquarters building for 48 years, its fourth location in New York City. The building is located on a prime stretch of Broadway near 61st Street, within a block of Central Park, Columbus Circle, and Lincoln Center. It’s expected to be razed and replaced with a residential development. The Board of Trustees approved the sale of the building in June 2014.

The $300 million sale price is nearly three times the charity’s annual budget. Last year, American Bible reported total assets of $528 million, total revenue of $51 million and operating expenses of $83 million. The headquarters building has been fully depreciated, according to its 2014 financial statements.

“The sale is a strong mission accelerator,” ABS Board Chair Nick Athens said via a statement announcing the transaction. “As we prepare to enter a third century of ministry, we believe that now is the time to unlock the significant market value of the mid-Manhattan address and reinvest the proceeds to extend our mission-focused ministry.

“This sale could not come at a better time, fueling new growth at the threshold of our third century of missions,” said President and CEO Roy Peterson. “The proceeds from this sale will allow us to accelerate our work of inviting missions to experience the Bible’s life-changing message,” he said.

“Now that we have realized the long-term investment in our property on Broadway, we are committed to effective stewardship of the proceeds of this sale,” Peterson said. ABS will used the proceeds on the relocation of the headquarters, “funding of ministry efforts and investments that will promote the long-term stability and reach of the ministry,” he said.

Global commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield handled both the sale of the New York property and the search for a new headquarters.