The Real Deal New York

De Blasio’s biggest campaign bundler is a top WeWork exec

Co-working giant is building on city-owned land in the Navy Yard

April 21, 2016 02:07PM
By Konrad Putzier

From left: Gary Barnett, Adam Neumann and Bill de Blasio in a 2013 Instagram post by Miguel McKelvey

From left: Extell Development’s Gary Barnett, Adam Neumann and Bill de Blasio in a 2013 Instagram post by Miguel McKelvey

UPDATED, April 21, 3:57 p.m.: A top executive at WeWork is the biggest bundler for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign to-date, collecting money from WeWork’s founders and others with close ties to the firm, according to an analysis of campaign finance records by The Real Deal.

With its most recent $16 billion valuation, the co-working giant was already worth more — at least on paper — than the majority of New York’s biggest landlords. Now, its connections to a major bundler put it on turf typically occupied by those more established real estate companies, as well as lawyers and lobbyists active in the industry. WeWork is one of the biggest tenants in the city, with at least 2.8 million square feet of space leasedand is developing, along with Rudin Management and Boston Properties, a major office building on city-owned land at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Between Jan. 8 and 11, WeWork’s senior vice president of external affairs Arana Hankin bundled $68,750 in donations to Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign – by a fair margin the largest chunk of donations recorded in the current campaign cycle so far.

The individual donations came from WeWork co-founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey and their spouses, who each gave the maximum amount of $4,950, campaign finance filings show. Other WeWork staffers and employees at firms that do business with WeWork – such as UA Builders and Bestmark Woodworking, and architect Navi Maqami – also chipped in.

Hankin didn’t just account for the largest chunk: She also appears to be the only senior employee of a venture-capital funded company that bundled donations for de Blasio. Virtually all other bundlers in the current election cycle are real estate developers, lobbyists or lawyers.

Representatives for WeWork and Rudin Management declined to comment.

Arana Hankin

Arana Hankin

Arana Hankin joined WeWork in November, according to her Linkedin profile. Prior to joining the company, Hankin was a senior project manager at HR&A Advisors, which was billed by Crain’s as “the chosen consultancy” for its strong ties to the de Blasio administration.  Before that, she worked for Empire State Development on the Atlantic Yards project.

WeWork, which launched in 2010, has been the industry’s most-talked about startup for the past two years, in large part because of its dramatic growth — it operates at least 30 co-working spaces in the city — and astonishing ability to raise funds. It has scored over $1 billion to date from investors such as Boston Properties’ Mort Zuckerman, Chinese conglomerate Legend Holdings and Fidelity Management.

When the mayor unveiled his OneNYC plan in April 2015, he spoke about initiatives to manage density such as “live-work apartments, live-work buildings, or live-work districts.” All are initiatives that WeWork is actively taking on, including co-living space at Rudin’s 110 Wall Street. Investor documents leaked in August reveal that WeWork expects its residential offerings — dubbed “WeLive” at the time — to eventually bring in 20 percent of total revenue.

At the Navy Yard, the company is developing the office building Dock 72 on city-owned land in partnership with Rudin Management and Boston Properties. Rudin Management CEO Bill Rudin bundled $25,150 in donations to de Blasio’s campaign on the same days as WeWork. The developer is long known as a major patron of New York politicians.

A rendering of Dock 72 by S9 Architecture

A rendering of Dock 72 by S9 Architecture

Rudin and Boston Properties are Dock 72’s official developers. But WeWork signed on as the anchor tenant and Neumann was the main driving force behind the project, the Navy Yard’s president David Ehrenberg told TRD last year. The partners signed a 99-year ground lease for the land and filed plans for the project in November.

“The permits have not been approved at this time. Going forward they must resubmit plans that resolve any objections before permits will be issued. All decisions are based on merit and in keeping with city policies,” City Hall spokesperson Karen Hinton said in a statement.

Bundling is a common way to go around the individual contribution limits set by the city’s campaign finance board. The practice recently came into the spotlight after the FBI revealed that Jona Rechnitz, a major bundler for de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, is a subject in an investigation into police corruption.