Fate of Discover Financial Services campus in Riverwoods uncertain

While the proposed acquisition of Riverwoods-based Discover Financial Services by Capital One announced last week carries potential impacts for credit card users nationwide, it also raises questions about the possible effect on Discover’s suburban headquarters and those who work there.

Discover hasn’t shared any plans with the public or Riverwoods village officials, but the head of a nonprofit economic development organization serving Lake County believes Capital One isn’t likely to squander the skilled employee base in the Northern suburbs.

“Discover has been a big part of the region,” said Kevin Considine, president and CEO of Lake County Partners. “That talent and expertise doesn’t get easily replaced.”

Considine said he finds it more likely the deep talent pool that’s been built in the area could inspire Virginia-based Capital One to move some operations to Illinois rather than abandon what’s here.

“What shape that takes will take a while to shake out,” he said, adding that federal regulators will be giving the proposed $35 billion deal a thorough look first.

Riverwoods Mayor Kristine Ford said Discover’s corporate headquarters is an important part of the community.

“We are mindful of the space occupied by the Discover campus and have always taken that campus into account in our longer range plans,” she said.

Discover is the third-largest credit card brand in the U.S., and its Illinois headquarters has a legacy of having been launched as a division of Sears in 1985.

While the now-independent credit card firm is still going strong and obviously sought after by Capital One, Sears has shrunk to 12 retail stores in the continental U.S. Its parent company, Transformco, sold its former headquarters in Hoffman Estates last year to Dallas-based Compass Datacenters, which plans to redevelop the site.

Capital One is the 12th largest bank in the U.S. and looking to acquire Discover’s existing credit card network.

Capital One executives last week said they would allow customers to use the Discover payment network shortly after a deal closes, which they believe could be by the end of the year. The Virginia company also said it plans to keep the Discover brand along with its cards, although the cards might be co-branded.

However, the proposed acquisition is expected to receive deep scrutiny by federal regulators due to the antitrust concerns that have been voiced in the wake of the announcement.

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