Once valued at $47 billion, WeWork attorneys argue that releasing the names of its 600,000 clients would allow office landlords to poach customers.
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WeWork asked the court in its bankruptcy proceeding to allow it to hide its sprawling list of tenants from public view, saying releasing the information would let office landlords poach its customers with “unimaginable precision.”
At a time when commercial landlords are struggling to fill space in buildings across most of the world, WeWork attorneys argued this week that unveiling their list of customers would make it easier for competing landlords to sign leases with WeWork tenants.
Releasing the names and information about tenants who signed leases with WeWork “would amount to the publication of a location-specific customer list for every location in the U.S. and constitute an open invitation for all competitors, landlords, and brokers to solicit Customers with hitherto unimaginable precision,” WeWork attorneys wrote.
“Even the publication of Customers’ identities alone would be catastrophic,” the attorneys said.
WeWork, which was once valued at $47 billion and considered a high-growth startup that offered businesses flexible leases after signing its own long-term leases in office buildings all over the world, filed for bankruptcy protection last month and tried to get out of about 70 leases.
The company isn’t going out of business and is, instead, hoping to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings as a profitable company.
Part of that plan, the company’s attorneys are arguing, includes retaining its roughly 600,000 customers worldwide.
Bankruptcy law allows the court to restrict some commercially sensitive information from public view, and the parties in the case eventually agreed to shield the information.
Crain’s Business New York first reported on the legal filings, which were made over the weekend.
The trustee monitoring the case for the U.S. Department of Justice previously opposed WeWork’s request to shield the information from public view, Crain’s reported.
“It is well settled that, as a matter of promoting the integrity of the judicial system, bankruptcy proceedings must be open and transparent,” the trustee said in a November filing.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect that the parties have agreed to redact customer information in the case.