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Black Rock back on block

Insurance company Equitable Life Assurance Society is putting Viacom's headuquarters building 1515 Broadway back on the market after failing to work out a deal with the media company.

Viacom had tried to swap CBS's old HQ, the venerable Black Rock building about 10 blocks away, to Equitable in exchange for the much larger 1515 building. But newsletter Real Estate Finance & Investment reports that they couldn't work out a deal. 1515 contains most of Viacom's New York operations, including the MTV studio that overlooks Times Square, drawing throngs of shrieking teenage girls onto the street below.

Viacom still wants to buy the building, but wants to tie it to a tax-efficent exchange. The company's goal now is engineer a more complicated, but relatively common, three-way deal. Viacom wants to find a buyer for Black Rock. Instead of buying it from Viacom, the media company would swap it to Equitable for 1515, then the buyer would pay Eqitable. That would make the sale of Black Rock tax-free to Viacom.

However, because Black Rock is smaller and less prominently located than 1515, Viacom would probably have to give Equitable some cash to match up the valuations.
- John M. Higgins