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Meta coughs up to end office lease that still had years left

Meta had a big headline-grabbing event on Wednesday, unveiling new gear and talking up its plans for the future.

What it definitely didn’t mention was that it recently paid a large sum of money to end a lease on a major office development in London, despite it having another 18 years to run.

Meta forked out 149 million British pounds (about $180 million) to cancel the contract with British Land, which owns the property near the capital city’s famous Regent’s Park, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

The company is believed to have paid the equivalent of about seven years of rent to release itself from its office contract in London. Meta never even occupied the site, instead renting it out in 2021. According to the FT, the company led by Mark Zuckerberg has also terminated leases in New York and put the brakes on an expansion in Austin, Texas. This corresponds with the company’s earlier comments to the news outlet that it is reevaluating its “entire global real estate footprint” to adjust to changes in working conditions.

The move is a sign of the times, coming as large tech firms allow for more remote working among their staff following the pandemic, while also laying off large numbers of employees in the face of uncertain economic conditions.

In Meta’s case, the company allowed its staff to work remotely for a long time during and after the pandemic, though earlier this month it enacted a return-to-office mandate requiring staff to work at Meta’s physical locations at least three days a week. In further efforts to keep office space to a minimum, those who only come in occasionally have been told to share desks. Meta has also reduced its need for office space after shedding around 21,000 workers in several rounds of layoffs since November 2022.

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