After buying up all of the empty land and available office space around its sprawling headquarters complex here, Microsoft Corp. now has quietly turned its real estate aims inward.
The rapidly growing software company last month bought back the four buildings where it got its start.
Microsoft said it repurchased the four buildings, the first to be built at its headquarters, from a New York-based pension fund, the Teachers Investment and Annuity Association, which had owned them for six years.
The buyback price was not disclosed.
Microsoft had been leasing the buildings from the association. The New York group, like many pension funds, was anxious to sell the property at year-end to spruce up a portfolio dragged down by troubled junk bonds and real estate investments.
Microsoft also bought the 29 acres of land the buildings sit on.
"For master planning, it's easier to control your own destiny" by owning the buildings, explained Buck Ferguson, Microsoft's investor-relations adviser, who confirmed the purchase.
"There's also the important element of saving money," he added. "From a financial standpoint, it makes more sense to own the buildings," he said.
Microsoft sold the land and buildings to the pension fund six years ago, when the company had more need of cash than it does today.
"We're a much different place now than we were six years ago," said Ferguson.
The purchase means Microsoft now owns all of the buildings on its 260-acre Redmond campus. The company's 22 buildings in Redmond cover 1.5 million square feet. Its Bothell manufacturing plant covers 265,000 square feet.
Over the past year Microsoft has accommodated its rapid growth using a number of different methods - putting up new buildings on its property, buying buildings adjacent to the headquarters complex, or, in one instance, leasing a large part of a building in downtown Bellevue.
Ferguson said the repurchase of the four buildings is independent of expansion plans. "If we need other land somewhere else, we'll look at that on its own merit," he said.
Microsoft is currently working on plans to add another building at the Redmond campus. Construction would start some time this year.
Also, Microsoft plans to soon start moving into two 160,000-square-foot buildings now under construction on the headquarters property.
Microsoft employees will move into Building 17 at the end of the month. Building 18 will open in July. A third new building was opened in November.