KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — As 2018 began, one of Knoxville's largest homegrown companies started the year with a big announcement.
"This is huge,” said Mike Cohen of Cohen Communications Group. “People were worried a lot of jobs will go away."
Discovery, which purchased Scripps Networks, announced its national operations headquarters would move to Knoxville once the $15 billion merger was complete.
“It will be the continued creation of well paying, high skilled jobs and that's really great news for Knoxville,” added Dr. Bill Fox, UT Economics professor about the Discovery headquarters.
Meanwhile, across town, another homegrown business prepared to move its corporate headquarters across town, selling off memorabilia in Halls for new waterfront digs.
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But as the Regal Entertainment merger with a new owner, UK based Cineworld Group, became final a month later -- top executives stepped down, bringing a cloud of uncertainty to the Knoxville based theater chain and south waterfront development.
"It's an important location in Knoxville and Tennessee,” said Dr. Fox about Regal's waterfront headquarters. “And, it would be key to the community that they be able to stay."
In March, Scripps Networks' $14 billion sale to Discovery finalized.
Crews changed out company logos, a promising sign as employees awaited more news which came in July.
Discovery announced it was moving its broadcast hub from Knoxville to Sterling, Virginia.
Also in July, Regal opened Cinebarre- an all in one style entertainment venue at West Town Mall.
"It's more than just your state of the art theater,” said Richard Glover, Regal VP of Communications.
August revealed Discovery's profits dropped more than $100 million in second-quarter earnings prompting layoffs and employee transfers.
“So this is laying some people off and the costs associated with that, bringing systems together, moving people around, so not surprising,” Dr. Fox said about the layoffs. “The question for the company is not what happens in a single quarter but what happens in the next few years.”
A week later, Pilot Flying J, the Knoxville based truck stop chain, announced layoffs. We learned in October 2017, Berkshire Hathaway bought 38 percent of the company started by the Haslam family and will own 80 percent by 2023.
But the transition of ownership hasn't slowed Pilot's long-standing, philanthropic commitment. As 2018 came to a close, Pilot Flying J donated 2 million dollars to more than 20 nonprofits.
And, Regal paid homage to its Rocky Top roots, rolling out a new logo designed in Tennessee orange.
The company says the re-branding is a nod to its hometown. It's also part of a larger strategy to commit a billion dollars toward new cinemas and renovations over the next five years.