Employees at cryptocurrency news publication CoinDesk were told Tuesday that the firm is moving into office space in the same building as its parent company, Digital Currency Group (DCG), a transition that will take place in March 2020.
In an email sent to employees, his first ever to CoinDesk’s entire staff, DCG founder and CEO Barry Silbert outlined four reasons for the move, vowing that while seeking to create new business synergies with the media company, one of three wholly-owned subsidiaries, the parent would continue to respect and strengthen the editorial independence of the publication, founded in 2013.
The other two subsidiaries, Grayscale Investments and Genesis Trading, work out of the DCG office building in Manhattan.
“We will build a state-of-the-art office,” Silbert wrote. “Essentially, the only teams we won’t meet with are the editorial staff and the content professionals who build the event agendas.”
“We are 100 percent committed to preserving that independence,” he continued.
The lease was signed Tuesday. A representative of the building’s owner, the Feil Organization, had previously indicated it expected a deal on the office to close this week.
In his email to employees, Silbert specified that CoinDesk’s new offices would be on a separate floor of the building from DCG. The 9,000 square foot space was formerly used by Luminary Media, a podcast streaming platform. CoinDesk has to date operated out of WeWork offices, all in Manhattan.
Still, Silbert was clear that there had been a material change in the dynamic between the two companies, adding:
“We are committed to investing significant resources into CoinDesk so that we can retain our talent, hire new voices, build great new products, continue to host high-end conferences and continue to produce the best journalism in the industry. But there should be no doubt in anyone’s minds about our view on supporting an influential, truly independent newsroom.”
He said: “I absolutely believe having CoinDesk in the same building is a critical step for the sustained growth of DCG and CoinDesk.”
A representative for DCG specified that he expects the offices to have their own security passes, which would restrict which floors employees of each company can access.
The decision follows a weeks-long period of opposition from some employees of CoinDesk.
Concerns about the move and its impact on CoinDesk’s ability to operate as an independent publication had been expressed directly to the company’s leadership in two signed emails as well as a face-to-face meeting last month.
The move is seen as a break from the historical geographic separation between the two firms, as outlined by CoinDesk’s Editorial Policy, which reads: “We work in separate offices and maintain strict policies on editorial independence and transparency.”
CoinDesk has maintained offices in a separate building from DCG ever since the industry investment firm, which has stakes in more than 145 crypto and blockchain-focused startups, acquired CoinDesk in late 2015 from founder and angel investor Shakil Khan. The firm was subsequently run by CoinDesk Managing Director Ryan Selkis, formerly director of growth at DCG.
He was later succeeded by Kevin Worth, CoinDesk’s CEO.
A preliminary decision to approve the move announced Tuesday was reached on Aug. 14 between Worth and members of DCG.
News of that decision quickly spawned an internal meeting on Aug. 26 at which Worth took questions from CoinDesk staff about the proposed decision. At the time, Worth said he had “temporarily paused” the office move, pending a discussion of concerns.
At the meeting, both New York-based and international employees voiced their worries that the move could harm CoinDesk’s reputation.
Staffers outlined the potential risk posed to the company in a follow-up letter addressed to Worth, which stated:
“These costs include the possible reputational damage to CoinDesk, a deterioration of reader trust and an opening for competitors to undermine our standing as the industry’s leading news provider. The move would also make it harder for us to recruit and retain top talent, and it would make it more difficult to work with diverse sources across the industry, who may not want to attend a meeting in the same building as DCG.”
Twenty-nine of CoinDesk’s roughly 50 employees signed the email.
In response to that letter, Worth said there was “no specific timeframe” for the decision. “We’ll have a chance to talk again at the all hands on Sept. 17,” he said in an email.
On Tuesday, Worth sought to position the finalized move as one that’s in the best interest of the company, telling CoinDesk:
“CoinDesk will continue to produce the finest independent journalism in the industry. In preparation for the office move in 2020, earlier today I asked some of our editorial colleagues to form a committee that will recommend specific principles and controls to maintain the complete editorial independence of CoinDesk. I look forward to receiving those recommendations.”
The full email from DCG CEO Barry Silbert can be found below:
Dear CoinDesk Team,
I’ve been a CoinDesk fan since the very beginning.
When the CoinDesk founder, Shakil Khan, approached me in 2013 about investing in a new media company focused on bitcoin and its emerging community, I jumped at the opportunity. Most people believe that media companies are terrible investments – but I believed that a strong, independent publication was essential to the development of this industry.
In 2016, it became clear that CoinDesk was in severe financial trouble and on the verge of extinction. As I was considering an investment, I was yet again advised that acquiring a media company would be a poor financial decision. And, after all, what did I know about building a media business? I ignored the naysayers because I believed in CoinDesk and its essential voice in the industry.
I haven’t worked in news but I know that a media company is only valuable if you have great journalists producing terrific content. I knew that I needed to choose strong leaders and let them build a terrific team with a steadfast commitment to cover the industry with honesty, integrity, and independence. Basically, it’s the same rule I follow with our other businesses – hire smart people and let them do their thing. Today, CoinDesk has grown from a small team that merely aggregated news to a global organization that produces the very best original blockchain journalism in the world.
Kevin informed you this morning that CoinDesk will be moving to a new office in 2020. Yes, the office is located on the 2nd floor of XXXXXX, and yes, that’s the same building where DCG, Grayscale, and Genesis reside on the 5th floor. That’s created concern and anxiety among some of you, with the belief that the dynamic between DCG and CoinDesk has somehow changed.
Well, it has. We are committed to investing significant resources into CoinDesk so that we can retain our talent, hire new voices, build great new products, continue to host high-end conferences, and continue to produce the best journalism in the industry. But there should be no doubt in anyone’s minds about our view on supporting an influential, truly independent newsroom: we are 100% committed to preserving that independence.
I will never tell you what to write, who to cover, or how to write it. Nor will my team. We will not ask you to “go easy” on our portfolio companies, or to coddle DCG and its subsidiaries. And I will never ask you to go easy on me. To the contrary, we recognize that CoinDesk only has value if it remains a truly independent editorial voice.
So why move CoinDesk to XXXXXXX? Several reasons:
We will build a state-of-the-art office. Once complete, CoinDesk will have a broadcast studio, podcast capabilities, and a modern workspace where we believe all of you will excel and thrive as journalists and professionals.
We’re investing resources to ensure that every employee will feel safe in the workplace, with enhanced security measures designed to protect the team.
The DCG team will meet regularly with the CoinDesk business team – product, data, sales, marketing, video, and the leadership team – on business-related issues. Essentially, the only teams we won’t meet with is the editorial staff and the content professionals who build the event agendas (who I view as creating live journalism that is separate from business considerations).
As we continue the evolution of making CoinDesk the essential publication for global investors, several aspects of the business will intersect with DCG. If we decide to make acquisitions that would bolster the data, content, video, or podcast capabilities of CoinDesk, it would be DCG doing the diligence and making the acquisition.
All of this can be done with the right controls and safeguards in place to preserve editorial independence.
There are several examples of parent companies or the business sides of media companies residing in the same building as the editorial team, and successfully navigating the issues that concern you. I absolutely believe having CoinDesk in the same building is a critical step for the sustained growth of DCG and CoinDesk.
This is a fantastic opportunity for ambitious journalists, but each of you will have to make the personal decision about participating in the exciting opportunities on the road ahead. I can’t control the conspiracy theories and perceptions on Twitter, or what sources will say, and neither can you. Conspiracy theories will persist as long as DCG owns CoinDesk and that’s definitely not changing anytime soon. (And trust me, I know all about baseless, irrational Twitter attacks.)
At a time when news organizations are struggling, we’re investing tens of millions of dollars to build an even better media company. We want to compete in the next decade against the premier financial publications in the world; forget the crypto publications, we’re focused on the biggest fish in financial media. I can assure you that we are totally committed to building an outstanding media company for the long term. Our journalists are a big reason we’ve gotten as far we have, and we will need you to take this company to the next level. It’s going to be a fun ride.
DCG CEO Barry Silbert image via CoinDesk archives