Two steps forward, two (or three) steps back with Fortune 500s

AGL Resources headquarters in Midtown Atlanta shown Monday afternoon August 24, 2015. Southern Co. is buying AGL Resources Inc., which would create the second-biggest utility company in the U.S. by customer base. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

AGL Resources headquarters in Midtown Atlanta shown Monday afternoon August 24, 2015. Southern Co. is buying AGL Resources Inc., which would create the second-biggest utility company in the U.S. by customer base.
Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Just a couple months ago, metro Atlanta business leaders were ecstatic: the region added two companies to its ranks of Fortune 500 corporations.

Thanks to growth, natural gas company AGL Resources and telecommunications equipment company ARRIS Group joined the coveted Fortune Magazine list in June. The additions gave the Atlanta region 18 such corporate juggernauts, up from 16 the year before.

Corporate headquarters are among the most coveted prizes in economic development for the high-paid executives, the philanthropic support and the civic pride they often bring.

Chambers of commerce love the Fortune 500 and 1000 lists. Such companies add a little luster to a chamber recruitment pitch and send a signal about a city’s corporate vitality.

But, as sometimes happens, the rankings can be fleeting. Some companies have bad years and drop. Others get bought. A few will move.

August hasn’t been such a hot month for Atlanta’s list.

John F. Brock, Chairman and CEO Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., listens to discussion on the T-SPLOST transportation referendum during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, May 31, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

John F. Brock, Chairman and CEO Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., listens to discussion on the T-SPLOST transportation referendum during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, May 31, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

On Aug. 6, Coca-Cola Enterprises, the massive bottler whose executives are in Cobb County, but which does its business mostly in Europe, announced it would merge with two other European Coke bottlers. As part of the deal, the merged bottler will move its corporate headquarters to Great Britain.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of next year.

On Monday, electric utility Southern Company said it will acquire AGL, which so many people know as Atlanta Gas Light, for $12 billion including debt. The Southern-AGL tie-up is expected to close in the second half of 2016.

According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Southern-AGL deal is the first merger of Atlanta-based Fortune 500 companies.

Should the mergers go through, you can strike two members from metro Atlanta’s Fortune 500 ranks.

Then there’s the packaging company Rock-Tenn in Gwinnett County. Rock-Tenn announced a combination with rival MeadWestvaco at the beginning of this year, a deal that recently closed.

The combined company took the name WestRock and boasts dual headquarters.

CEO Steve Voorhes is based in Norcross, home of the former Rock-Tenn, and the rest of the top executive team is based in MeadWestvaco’s home of Richmond, Va.

It’s a similar set up with how NCR works, with its HQ in Gwinnett (soon to be Midtown) and its CEO based in Manhattan. To Fortune and most everyone, NCR is a Georgia company.

We’ll have to see how Fortune counts WestRock on next year’s list.

When the 2016 Fortune 500 rankings come out, how many do you think metro Atlanta will have?

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