Name Change and Headquarters Move
R. J. Reynolds Industries, Inc., which began as R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1875, and changed its name in 1970, became RJR Nabisco on April 25, 1986 after the company's $4.9 billion purchase of Nabisco Brands Inc. in 1985.
In August 1986, the RJR Nabisco board announced that F. Ross Johnson would replace J. Tylee Wilson as head of the company effective January 1, 1987. Soon after that, Johnson, believing "bucolic" Winston-Salem did not have the right image for a "world-class company", began looking at other possible headquarters cities. The company decided against New York City and Dallas, Texas. Atlanta was selected because it was "nouveau riche and overbuilt". On January 15, 1987, the RJR Nabisco board approved a headquarters move from Winston-Salem to Cobb County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, where the company had rented space. The move would affect 250 to 300 employees, while Winston-Salem would still have 14,000 people working for the company. RJR Nabisco donated the 519,000-square-foot World Headquarters Building to Wake Forest University but continued to use it until the September 1987 move. Later, RJR Nabisco's Planters-Life Savers Division moved to the former headquarters building.
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