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Discovery Will Leave Silver Spring

Photograph courtesy Discovery Communications.

Discovery Communications will leave Silver Spring, ending 14 years in the DC suburb. Many of its operations will move to New York City; others will move to Knoxville, Tennessee. The company plans to maintain network hubs in Maryland and in Virginia.

NBCWashington and the Moco Show report that CEO David Zaslav broke the news to employees in an email Tuesday. “The decision to move our global headquarters from its founding home is one we do not make lightly,” Zaslav says in a press release. “We remain unwavering in our support of the Maryland and Greater Washington, DC area and we thank the leadership of the State of Maryland, Montgomery County and, most importantly, our employees for their cooperation and understanding as we make this important next step for the long-term success of Discovery.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett says the county  worked hard to keep the company. “I think we had probably the largest package I can recall in the history of the county,” he tells Washingtonian. “We put a hell of an offer on the table.” The television industry, he notes, is changing rapidly. Indeed, the network in 2016 announced buyouts and layoffs in an attempt to cut costs. County spokesperson Patrick Lacefield says the county found out about Discovery’s decision Tuesday morning.

Discovery agreed to purchase Knoxville-based Scripps Networks Interactive last July, bringing together Discovery brands like the Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet with Scripps assets including the Food Network, HGTV, and the DIY Network.

The company was tight-lipped about what the purchase would mean for the future of its Silver Spring HQ, despite putting $10 million into renovations for the building last year. Montgomery County and the state of Maryland contributed to the renovations, Maryland through a conditional loan. The loan hadn’t yet been distributed, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Commerce tells Washingtonian, so there will be no clawback.

“Throughout the process, Governor Hogan had multiple conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Commerce worked closely with the Discovery team,” the commerce department spokesperson says in a statement. “While disappointing, the news that the state was able to secure a commitment to create a network hub and retain hundreds of employees in Maryland is welcome.”

Discovery received $10 million to move its headquarters from Bethesda to Silver Spring, where it helped spark redevelopment. About 1,300 people work in the building, which Discovery plans to sell. “It’s not clear that someone’s just going to step into it as is,” Lacefield says. The county’s plan for figuring out what to do next is “a work in progress that sort of begins now,” he says.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.