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Condé Nast May Break Lease on 1 World Trade Center HQ (EXCLUSIVE)

World Trade Center
John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx

Just six years after moving in, Advance Publications, the holding company behind Condé Nast, is trying to renegotiate or get out of the lease on its headquarters at 1 World Trade Center, sources tell Variety

The one-time, all-powerful media empire — which includes such prestigious magazine titles as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue — decamped from its longtime home at 4 Time Square in 2014. At the time, executives signed a 25-year lease for 21 floors of skyscraper office space in lower Manhattan, a real estate deal worth roughly $2 billion.

Initially that pact seemed like a great deal for a prime real-estate location. But the coronavirus, which has been punishing for print advertising (especially glossies that rely on luxury and fashion brands for revenue), has made the harsh realities of the magazine business more bleak.

“Advance Publications is in discussions about bringing the lease at 1 World Trade Center into line with current market conditions and its ongoing needs at this location,” said a spokesperson for the company. “It is considering alternative solutions to address these requirements.”

Those “alternative solutions” may even be buying out its lease by paying a fraction of what it owes, according to insiders. Advance has been quietly touring possible space in more affordable neighborhoods in New York City in recent weeks. For now, as the coronavirus has forced many publications to have their writers and editors file stories from home, Condé’s office sits largely empty.

In April, the company instituted pay cuts and furloughs to its staff of more than 6,000 employees around the world. One month later, Condé was forced to lay off about 100 staffers in the United States.

Whatever the outcome, CEO Roger Lynch has decided that Condé will need much less office space moving forward. Last week, Stan Duncan, the global Chief People officer at the company, sent an email to employees, explaining why some of them had been asked to clear out their offices even as they were working remotely.

“While it’s difficult to estimate the exact moment when we will return to working regularly in the office, we know that remote work will be a larger part of our future workforce strategy,” the email read. “Based on our survey results, a majority of our team — over 70% — expressed interest in some form of flexible or full-time remote work arrangement. We are working on the details and process for longer-term remote work agreements, and will have more to share on the program and how to apply soon.”

The email continued: “This is also why our teams on a few of our floors at 1 WTC received a communication about removing their personal belongings from the office as we begin planning a different layout for space to accommodate flexible work schedules and implement safety measures.”