Latham & Watkins nears deal for huge new office on Sixth Avenue: sources

Law firm taking 400K sf at Rockefeller Group’s 1271 Sixth

Rockefeller Group's Daniel Moore and 1271 Sixth Avenue
Rockefeller Group's Daniel Moore and 1271 Sixth Avenue

In the latest blockbuster deal to hit Sixth Avenue, mega law firm Latham & Watkins is taking 400,000 square feet at the former Time & Life Building.

The global law firm will lease 10 floors in the tower section of the Rockefeller Group’s 2.1 million-square-foot building at 1271 Sixth Avenue, sources told The Real Deal. It wasn’t immediately clear if the lease had been signed or was in late stages as of Friday afternoon.

The 15-year lease, which covers the 25th through 34th floors, has a starting rent in the mid-$90s per square foot, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

A spokesperson for Rockefeller Group declined to comment, and representatives for Latham & Watkins could not be immediately reached.

The law firm will be relocating from roughly the same square footage at the Lipstick Building at 885 Third Avenue, which Ceruzzi Holdings and SMI USA control through a ground lease they purchased in early 2016 for $453 million.

Scott Gamber at CBRE is negotiating the deal on behalf of Latham & Watkins. A CBRE team of Mary Ann Tighe, Howard Fiddle and John Maher is handling leasing at 1271 Sixth alongside an in-house team at Rockefeller led by Ed Guiltinan. None of the brokers could be reached for comment.

Latham & Watkins is in a time of transition. The law firm is looking for a new leader after chair William Voge resigned last week following revelations he had engaged in inappropriate emails with a woman not affiliated with the firm, multiple news outlets have reported.

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Latham also lost the position it held for the last three years as the world’s highest-grossing law firm, coming in second-place behind rival firm Kirkland & Ellis with $3 billion in revenue in 2017. (Kirkland & Ellis late last year inked a 120,000-square-foot expansion at 601 Lexington Avenue, bringing its footprint in the building to roughly 520,000 square feet.)

Latham attorney Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York and chief judge of the state’s court of appeals, is the lead attorney on Tax Equity Now New York’s legal challenge to the city’s property tax system.

The law firm’s six-figure lease is the latest large transaction driving activity on Sixth Avenue, which has many large blocks of available space after tenants in recent years leased deals to relocate elsewhere in Manhattan.

That availability, along with some major renovation projects on the avenue, has helped made Sixth Avenue the most active submarket over the past two years. Leasing in 2017 totaled 3.27 million square feet, up nearly 42 percent from the year before, the New York Post reported.

Rockefeller Group is working on a $600 million renovation to the 48-story tower at 1271 Sixth Avenue between West 50th and 51st streets to draw new tenants. The landlord last year leased 400,000 square feet to Major League Baseball and just shy of 420,000 square feet to Mizuho Americas.

Rockefeller executive vice president and head of urban development Daniel Moore is taking over as head of the company as co-presidents and CEOs Daniel Rashin and Tetsuya Masuda step down.