Russell Investments will leave Tacoma for Seattle

SEATTLE — Global investment company Russell Investments said today it will move from its hometown headquarters in Tacoma to Seattle, taking over the downtown building left largely vacant by the collapse of Washington Mutual Inc.

Russell, founded 73 years ago in Tacoma and now owned by Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual, said the move next year would give it access to a larger talent pool and an address “in the center of a major Pacific Rim city.”

With about 900 employees in Tacoma and 1,750 worldwide, Russell serves individual, institutional and financial adviser clients in 40 countries through asset management, research and mutual funds and other investments. It is widely known for its stock market indexes.

As of June 30, the company had $151 billion in assets under management.

Andrew Dorman, president and CEO of Russell, said in a statement that the move was good “both from an economic and qualitative standpoint, and particularly given the unique conditions of the commercial real estate market in Seattle.”

Russell announced last year it wanted to relocate from its current 12-story headquarters. Tacoma, 26 miles south of Seattle, had offered incentives worth more than $148 million to keep the company as its downtown anchor.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said Dorman called him this morning to tell him of the move.

“I welcomed him and told him that was great news for us,” Nickels said.

Nickels said the move will mean hundreds of jobs in downtown Seattle, which lost thousands when Seattle-based WaMu collapsed a year ago and was subsequently taken over by JPMorgan Chase &Co.

At its height, WaMu employed about 4,000 people at its headquarters building, but that’s now down to about 300, said Chase spokeswoman Darcy Donohoe-Wilmot.

The 42-story building, to be renamed the Russell Investments Center, is being sold to Northwestern Mutual, Donohoe-Wilmot said. The remaining Chase employees will be consolidated on three floors, and the bank will retain its branch on the ground floor, she said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, Donohoe-Wilmot said.

“We’ve been very public about our desires to sell the building for several months,” she said. “We just don’t have the need for the space.”

Nickels said Seattle offered no tax incentives. “This is a business decision by the Russell company. We did not contact them, they contacted us,” Nickels said.

The city did, however, propose to bring its tax code in line with that of Tacoma and the state concerning businesses classified as “international investment management services.” The city estimates Russell would pay it about $250,000 a year in business and occupation taxes.

Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma said Dorman also called him to inform him of the decision.

Baarsma told The News Tribune in Tacoma that while the city was “deeply disappointed” in the move, it did all it could to keep the company there.

“We gave it our very best effort,” he said. “I didn’t lose a wink of sleep over the effort that we made.”

Russell was started in 1936 as a small brokerage company by Tacoma businessman Frank Russell. His grandson, George Russell, greatly expanded the company in the 1960s and ’70s as a consultant to large pension funds, and launched its investment management business in the 1980s. Russell was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in 1999.

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