Updated 5:30 p.m.
Online loan marketplace LendingTree is keeping its headquarters in Charlotte, and planning to add 436 jobs over the next five years.
LendingTree is probably Charlotte's best known internet brand. Since opening its south Charlotte headquarters in 1998, the company has grown under founder and CEO Doug Lebda. He took its stock public at the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000, celebrating with a big and memorable bash uptown. Lebda said he favored staying in Charlotte.
"My heart is always in Charlotte. At the same time for shareholders you need to do what's right and consider [other sites]. But North Carolina's state taxes, the business climate, the regulatory climate ... I'm thrilled that we're staying here," Lebda said after Thursday's announcement at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, formerly the Charlotte Chamber offices, uptown.
Lebda said he looked at 20 sites in North and South Carolina before deciding to stay in Charlotte. The new location, one of three finalists for the headquarters, will be announced in the next week or so, he said.
Lebda said one of the potential sites is in south Charlotte's Ballantyne area, near the current LendingTree offices. He would not identify the other sites.
A news release from Mecklenburg County said the company will invest $26 million and hinted at a potential address for the company. Both the county and a LendingTree spokeswoman say the new location for the company has not been confirmed.
The project allows LendingTree to consolidate multiple locations into one site, Lebda said.
Government tax incentives were a factor, which will total nearly $11 million over 12 years, according to state commerce secretary Tony Copeland. That includes an $8 million NC Job Development Incentive Grant and $1.4 million from the city and county. There's also a state community college grant.
LendingTree also got tax breaks from the city and county when it promised to add 314 jobs in an expansion in SouthPark area two years ago. Those jobs are not included in the new positions announced Thursday.
Lebda said the 436 new jobs include marketing and technology positions, with an average salary of $101,000.
"We're seeing a lot of growth not only in Charlotte but we're also having people from our other offices who are moving to Charlotte particularly from California," he said.
LendingTree currently has about 1,000 employees in six offices. The company told investors this week it expects revenues of at least $765 million this year, and close to a billion dollars next year.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to an unconfirmed address for LendingTree's new site in Charlotte.