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Has another brand new custom-built headquarters ruined another famous institution?

Instapundit (and yes I am reading him a lot just now) has been linking to a book called Gray Lady Down, which is about the downfall of the New York Times, from a persuasive proclaimer of the statist consensus to an unpersuasive proclaimer of the statist ex-consensus. I’ve not read this book, but it has a big picture of a skyscraper on its front cover. Might there, I wondered, be a brand new, custom-built headquarters involved in this story? There might indeed:

The New York Times Building is a skyscraper on the west side of Midtown Manhattan that was completed in 2007. …

Previous example of something very similar here. Since writing that earlier posting, I have dug out the original description of this syndrome, by Professor C. Northcote Parkinson, and I note that he sees the causation involved as a bit more complicated than I had previously stated. It is not just that building a new headquarters building causes an enterprise to take its eye off the ball. Its eye already was off the ball, or it would never have decided to build its new headquarters in the first place.

21 comments to Has another brand new custom-built headquarters ruined another famous institution?

  • RRS

    There is amongst executives an:


    As I once explained to a dear friend and client who had created and continued to build one of the best known insurance specializer in the U. S. and determined to go vertical, when operations called for horizontal.

    Tho’ the comment was private, he could see the possible public perception and immediately put out a letter to shareholders and employees that management ” …. had no Edifice Complex.”

    But they all seem to. As a perceptive female observer from the U K asked me later: “What is it; something phallic?”

  • Laird

    You also see this “edifice complex” at work in banks. My operating rule is that a bank’s financial condition is inversely proportional to the opulence of its headquarters (and especially to that of its boardroom, if you can penetrate deeply enough to see it).

    My theory is that a management and board of directors which would spend that much money and effort on a mere building is so fixated on the trappings of success that it is oblivious to the day-to-day reality of it.

  • John K

    I hope the New York Times goes down, and takes Warren fucking Buffet down with it.

  • Am I missing something? I can’t find the Parkinson quote; the Parkinson link just links to Amazon. So having dug it out Brian, where is it?

  • RRS


    Buffet owns a segment of the Washington Post (WaPo), and sits on its Board; not at NYT.

    He was a great friend of Katherine Graham, and picked that mangement operation, which differs greatly from that at the NYT (obviously?), tho’ the editorial and newsroom biases have similarities.

    That was at about the same time GEICO, located in D.C., also came in his sights; both great buys back then. One still is.

  • Jeff Wood

    Another piece of evidence for the prosecution: the Royal Bank of Scotland built a vast new headquarters building just outside Edinburgh, a couple of years before having to be rescued by the taxpayer.

  • Jeff: Indeed. It has been written about on this blog.

  • Bad News , The US Institute of Peace has almost finished building their new Headquarters in Washington. Its in a prime site west of the Lincoln Memorial and north of the Kennedy Center.

    I suggest that a bright investor would buy stocks in as many weapons manufactures as possible.

  • Jacob

    “The US Institute of Peace ”
    Like all modern newspeak, the name “institute of peace” probably stands for it’s opposite, i.e. appeasement, unpreparedness, pacifism and surrender. (I haven’t looked it up, but it seems to me a sure guess).
    If there are signs of it’s failure, it would be a good thing.

  • RRS

    And what many structures in D.C. preceded atrophy of unions of civil employess?

    And the great Temple of AARP? What next?

    And what of the documented plan issued by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace for War by the Nations of Africa upon the Union of S.A. during Aparthied?

  • renminbi

    The British broadsheets are at least witty. The NYT is written on a 10th grade level and is as tedious as it is inaccurate. Their HQ is on stolen land-that’s what you get for being a brown-nose.

    The newspaper industry put out a couple of hunded million fot the Newseum in DC which celebrates the dying industry. I pray daily for their demise.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Contrarily, Westpac (a big Australian bank) built a tall building here in Sydney, and they are still going very strong. You might remember the building from ‘The Matrix’- it’s the one Neo jumps from, with Martin Place below. So the rule is not 100% accurate.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Parkinson’s point was clever, but not accurate. The Pentagon was built for World War II, in which the U.S. won all the fights it was in. Since that time the U.S. military has been effectively the strongest armed force on earth. It is certainly that today.

    The Russian Empire flourished for two hundred years after the construction of Saint Petersburg.

  • Rich Rostrom

    On the other hand, the SEIU ran up a huge deficit to build a lavish new headquarters in Washington.

  • Banks and insurance companies traditionally sat in large, impressive buildings because a company that had set up in a large and impressive building was less likely to fold up and disappear than one running out of a wooden shed. That probably doesn’t apply any more, though.

    The Economist had a piece on this some years ago, and noted that Wal-Mart and Tesco have famously drab and uninspiring HQs.

  • Jeff Wood

    Thanks, Michael. That post was, I think, before I found this place. Sorry for the duplication.

  • Paul Marks

    Warren Buffet is dreadful man – I believe that if his father (who he goes on about loving) was still alive, he would hit Buffet jr. on the nose.

    “But Buffet is incredibly rich Paul” – so what? “He is going to give all his money away” – I never said he is not, he is still a dreadful man. Both leftist and dishonest.

    The New York Times building:

    Yes it is fitting for them – built on land taken by the govenrment and handed to them (political connections as the road to material advantage – was I not writing of Warren Buffet a little while ago?) and, of course, an ultra Progressive design.

    The Chicago Tribune buidlins always makes me sad – as it reminds me of when then Chicago Tribune was the greatest newspaper in the world.

    I feel nothing when I see the New York Times building – it is meaningless, like the New York Times itself.

    Mark Stein hit on the truth long ago.

    The thing about the New York Times (and the American newspapers who follow its “School of Journalism” style) is not that it is leftist and inaccurate – although it is .

    The basic thing abou the New York Times is that it is both pompous and boring – incredibly boring.

    Even if I was a leftist I would not value it.

  • John K

    Buffet owns a segment of the Washington Post (WaPo), and sits on its Board; not at NYT.

    Ah, Buffet’s involved with the other rag, fair enough, a pox on both their houses, and on that vile little fascist. If he is so keen on paying more tax, I’m sure the IRS would be happy to cash his cheques. He gets most of his ill-gotten gains from his political connections in the first place, after all.

  • Thomas

    Other examples would be the MoD (sadly) and the EU (wonderfully).

  • Look at the Guardian offices in London. All fancy-pants architecture and Macs, but they’re eating through the Scott Trust’s money at a rate that means they’ll be out of business in a decade.

    The thing to compare with is the businesses of entrepreneurs. Ryman (owned by Theo Paphitis) has an unspectacular head office in a business estate in Crewe because he knows that you don’t need fountains or a Richard Rodgers design to make a business work.