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Travis Kalanick navigates the world of real estate in secrecy

Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens has acquired more than 40 properties in nearly two dozen cities for more than $130 million over the past two years, according to the Wall Street Journal. The startup acquires closed restaurants, auto-body shops, and warehouses, and rents space to businesses that prepare food for delivery.

  • Why they acquire rather than lease: Landlords have been reluctant to rent to ghost-kitchen operators because they often require a complicated rebuild and the business model is still relatively unproven.  SoftBank backed Reef Technology and Kitchen United are also players in this budding industry.
  • Secrecy is the Uber way : Brokers and property analysts say Kalanick’s discretion rises to unusual levels. CloudKitchens doesn’t identify its locations on its website, and they usually aren’t shown on Google Maps. The former Uber founder has told employees not to name CloudKitchens in their LinkedIn profiles, the Journal noted.
  • Wild story from the WSJ report: Last year, representatives of an investment firm started touring a Los Angeles furniture store that was listed for sale. A big, open space located just off the San Diego Freeway, it was the perfect place for a food-delivery business, according to the listing agent Sheri Messerlian. Different groups of people showed up numerous times to inspect every corner. The property owner started getting impatient, she said. The suitors said little about themselves. Ms. Messerlian started digging but couldn’t find much information.
  • Dig Deeper: “I finally gave up,” she said. They were good for the money, and that was what mattered. In April, the investors bought the space for $2.95 million after getting a $200,000 pandemic discount.
  • The verdict: Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens was the buyer. Public records show that a City Storage Systems representative signed the application to register the LLC that now owns the property, which is registered to the 41st floor of the Los Angeles office tower. [WSJ]

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