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United Kingdom 2018: The Team Elite

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    United Kingdom 2018: The Team Elite

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    About

    The disruption of traditional industries by tech-backed companies is a familiar story by now. Even so, the rapid rise of shared workspace provider WeWork has caught many in the commercial real estate sector off guard. Founded in 2010, the New York-based company is already valued at over $20bn, making it one of the top ten start-ups globally. In the UK, WeWork’s rise has been just as spectacular. After entering the market in 2014, it is already the largest occupier of office space in central London. In spite of this rise, WeWork’s business model is incredibly simple: it rents space off a landlord and leases it on for more money. Nor is it the first company to follow this model. The likes of IWG and The Office Group have been doing the same thing for decades. However, says Jonathan Wainstein, real estate counsel for EMEA, the market was due a shake up. ‘Offices are among the most inefficiently-used spaces around. Most companies tend to rent far more space than they need because the decision is based either on what other similarlysized companies are renting or a hunch. No-one uses technology to analyse how buildings are actually being used. WeWork is taking a much more sophisticated approach, using technology that helps find the right-sized office for a business. Only by mapping how different companies like to use space can we learn the best way to organise the buildings we occupy.’ Wainstein works as part of a four-person EMEA, Israel and Australia real estate legal team led by associate GC Nicholas DiChiara. As with most tech-backed companies, WeWork has proved to be a good bet for its lawyers. Its first GC, former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Jen Berrent, was given additional responsibility as chief culture officer before being appointed as the company’s chief operating officer in 2017. The GC role has since been filled by former deputy GC, Peter Greenspan. While it has challenged vested interests, WeWork is hardly playing David to the Propco Goliath. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs were early investors, while venture capital outfit Softbank Group has sunk $4.4bn into the company so far. Is WeWork a credible longterm threat to the incumbents? Mat Oakley, head of European commercial research at Savills, thinks so. ‘Every industry in the world seems to be heading toward a small number of leviathans that dominate the market. WeWork will be one of the leviathans in the real estate space. It will be difficult for a traditional landlord to move its feet quickly enough or for an emerging competitor to gain enough momentum to challenge them.’

     

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