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WeWork General Counsel Named Co-Working Space’s Legal Chief (1)

Jan. 25, 2021, 12:00 PMUpdated: Jan. 25, 2021, 12:37 PM

Jared DeMatteis has taken over the top legal job at WeWork Inc., a commercial real estate company that owns the popular co-working business of the same name.

The company, which called off plans for an initial public offering in late 2019, has elevated DeMatteis to replace Jennifer Berrent, who spent a half-dozen years as WeWork’s chief legal officer. A source briefed on the matter confirmed the succession and said a transition plan had been in place since last year.

WeWork declined to discuss its legal leadership change. Berrent and Matteis didn’t respond to requests for comment about her departure or his ascension to the company’s top legal role. Bloomberg News reported in November that Berrent was in discussions about exiting WeWork during the first quarter of 2021.

Prior news reports have put Berrent’s compensation package at roughly $1.5 million. She would not have to repay about $12 million in retention bonuses if she left the privately held company.

Berrent’s LinkedIn profile shows that her tenure as legal chief ended in December. She joined WeWork as its top lawyer and chief culture officer in 2014 after working as a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where she headed the law firm’s emerging company practice in New York.

DeMatteis, a former Cravath, Swaine & Moore associate, joined WilmerHale as counsel in 2012. He spent three years at the firm, which had been a client of Berrent’s in private practice, before joining WeWork as a deputy general counsel.

The company promoted DeMatteis to global general counsel in late 2018 to replace Peter Greenspan, who took on the role of global head of real estate and special counsel. WeWork recruited its first European general counsel around that same time in Sarah Nelson Smith, who joined the company in London as a regional law department leader after serving as European legal chief at Yum Brands Inc.

Changing Business

WeWork’s scuttled IPO—Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett were lead counsel on the ill-fated listing, which securities filings show saw Berrent earn $878,885 in cash compensation in 2018—and the subsequent coronavirus pandemic hit the company’s bottom line hard.

At least a dozen in-house lawyers lost their jobs as WeWork moved to shore up alternative financing and shed thousands of workers. WeWork’s negotiations with its own employees often became contentious, according to Bloomberg News.

Within the past year WeWork has restructured its operations as the company’s founder, Adam Neumann, battled its largest investor, SoftBank Group Corp., in court over a $3 billion investment deal that the Japanese conglomerate withdrew.

SoftBank, which recently reshuffled its own legal ranks, was also sued by two independent directors at WeWork after abandoning a rescue plan for the company. That litigation was consolidated with the lawsuit filed by Neumann.

Amid the legal turmoil, other in-house lawyers have left.

S. Angela Jin, senior counsel for global commercial at WeWork, in June became general counsel and head of operations for the First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based nonprofit focused on climate change.

WeWork senior counsel Ravi Ramchandani joined upstart mortgage lender Better.com as deputy general counsel, while sneaker giant Nike Inc. hired former WeWork data privacy, cybersecurity, and technology counsel Jennifer Baek as an assistant general counsel for global privacy and security.

Online travel agency Booking.com hired Smith, WeWork’s first European legal chief, last summer to be its global head of corporate and commercial legal.

New Additions

Despite the defections and concerns about the company’s financial state, SoftBank committed $1.1 billion last summer to WeWork, which has moved to fill vacancies.

WeWork hired Hiranmai Rallabandi, a former regional associate general counsel for real estate services provider Cushman & Wakefield, to replace its former India general counsel Priya Menon after she left in August to take the same regional legal role at medical products manufacturer 3M Co.

WeWork in October recruited Garrett Ross, a former Cahill Gordon & Reindel associate who spent the past seven years as a vice president for global anti-corruption compliance at JPMorgan Chase & Co., to be its new senior director of legal and head of global standards and U.S. and Canada compliance.

This month the company elevated senior director and global head of legal services Deanna DeFrancesco to be its chief operating officer for legal and named non-lawyer Colleen Kasprzak its senior director of legal operations, while also appointing in-house lawyers Kate Hasbani, Esther Kwon, Hannah Javelly, and Roberto Concepcion Jr. to new roles, said a source knowledgeable of the promotions.

DeMatteis, WeWork’s new legal chief, touted on his LinkedIn profile this month an opening on his team for a head of Latin American compliance in Mexico City.

Other legal job listings include a regional employment and litigation counsel in Singapore and a data privacy, cybersecurity, and technology counsel in London, per WeWork’s online careers page.

Bloomberg News reported last year that WeWork could revisit its IPO plans once the company returns to profitability.

(Updated with additional reporting on the move and WeWork's IPO plans.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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