Each time the DuPont Co. sells or spins off a business, it leaves DuPont's century-old monolithic headquarters above the Hotel du Pont on central Wilmington's Rodney Square, to settle in some other community. Drugmaker Endo International, spun off by DuPont and Merck in 1997, left Wilmington for Malvern, though for tax and legal purposes it's now based in Ireland. Invista, the textile business that brought us nylon and much more, has been owned since 2007 by Koch Bros. Industries and based in Wichita, with a research lab in Newark, Del.
DuPont's latest round of reorganization will create more global headquarters. Where will they go?
Axalta Coating Systems, spun off in 2013, is currently headquartered in Brandywine Realty Trust's Commerce Plaza at 2001 Market St. in Center City, with regional HQ in Glen Mills. "We are here, this is our global headquarters, we have decorated this as our home," Axalta spokesman Matt Winokur told me, citing the two-story Color Wall the company has painted along the stairway between the 35th and 36th floors at Commerce Square.
Chemours, DuPont's titanium dioxide business, is slated to spin off this year. "While we are exploring options in multiple locations, a decision on location has not been made," DuPont spokesman Daniel Turner said, of Chemours.
There's also the question of DuPont's own future location. Chief executive Ellen Kullman has ordered the company moved out of Wilmington to the company's updated offices at Chestnut Run in the little city's western suburbs. Activist investor Nelson Peltz is recruiting shareholders to back his plan for cutting DuPont management costs still further, and maybe break the company into separate bio- and chemical companies. Which would likely mean yet another headquarters, somewhere.
At least one analyst has speculated DuPont's chemical division, as a separate company, could move to acquire rivals like Philadelphia-based FMC, which is currently planning to put its headquarters in a 49-story tower Brandywine is building for it in University City.
Brokers would love to put any of these DuPont spin-off or successor companies into Brandywine or Liberty Property Trust buildings near the Glaxo showplace at the Navy Yard in South Philly, or Brandywine's Center City Philadelphia towers in the neighborhood along Market St. between City Hall and Drexel, or the high-rent Radnor-Conshohocken office market, or the new centers Liberty proposes for the older sections of its Great Valley Corporate Centers.
Meanwhile thousands of managers and support staff at DuPont and its spin-offs are left to wonder where they'll end up, once the institutional shareholders and investment bankers have cut their deals with management.