Valley rent costs threaten Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly is struggling to offload thousands of square feet of expensive Silicon Valley real estate, as the firm attempts to find a buyer for its three European offices.

The Minneapolis-based firm has been stuck with 55,000sq ft of space in Palo Alto after a team of 28 predominantly intellectual property lawyers defected to Dechert, leaving the remaining attorneys to find new jobs.

Oppenheimer took on a 10-year lease on the space in 2000, at the zenith of the dotcom boom when rents in Silicon Valley were at sky-high rates.

With seven years left to run on the lease, Oppenheimer is still attempting to negotiate a solution with its landlord.

As the firm battles with its property burden, it is continuing its dramatic cost-cutting drive by searching for a buyer to take on its offices in Brussels, Geneva and Paris.

In recent months, Oppenheimer has scaled back its domestic presence, shutting offices in Los Angeles, New York, Orange County and Palo Alto, leaving the firm with its headquarters in Minneapolis. Now Europe is also a target and Oppenheimer’s 24 lawyers based in the three offices will be hoping to find a buyer for the branches.

A spokesman at Oppenheimer declined to comment on whether it was in talks with any potential buyers and said it was “premature” to suggest that its European lawyers could face redundancy. The firm’s attempt to sell off its Palo Alto branch, however, did result in a number of lawyers being “terminated”.