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Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly's highly unusual move to auction off its entire Palo Alto office will leave the new owner saddled with dotcom boom rent rates as San Francisco property prices continue to plunge
Sources said Oppenheimer is currently paying a monthly rate of around $10 (£6.20) per sq ft, giving an annual cost of around $120 (£74.70) per sq ft. This is compared with a new annual average of $30 (£18.70) per sq ft for space in the region, which according to property broker Cushman & Wakefield is the same inflation-adjusted rate that businesses were paying in 1992.
The firm's office, which it leased in 2000 as property prices reached their zenith, spans 55,000sq ft and there is believed to be around 10 years remaining on the lease.
Oppenheimer's plans to sell off the whole of its Palo Alto office, which contains around 40 lawyers, emerged last month. What prompted the move remains unclear, although a spokesperson for the Minneapolis firm said: "We have a number of people who get on well together and who want to stay together."
The Oppenheimer spokesperson declined to say how many approaches the firm had received on the Palo Alto office.
The firm is also consolidating its Orange Valley and Los Angeles offices, which it built up when it took over Poms Smith Lande & Rose in 1998.
Oppenheimer's Palo Alto office was formed in 1999 when a group of intellectual property lawyers moved from Graham & James, which subsequently merged with Squire Sanders & Dempsey.
The haul included senior lawyers Michael Kalkstein and Chris Graham, who in 1994 joined Graham & James from San Jose-based Berliner Cohen.
On leaving Graham & James a legal row erupted, with the firm launching a suit against Oppenheimer for misappropriation of trade secrets and tortious interference with a contract.