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Brookfield Properties’ retail arm is laying off 20% of its workforce, as pandemic hits malls

People walk through the Brookfield Place Pavilion at the World Trade Center West Concourse pedestrian transit connection on October 24, 2013 in New York City.

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One of the biggest retail real estate owners in the country, Brookfield Properties, is going through a major round of job cuts, CNBC has learned, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on its business and new leasing activity at its malls dries up. 

“While many companies were quick to implement furloughs and layoffs at the onset of the pandemic, we made the conscious decision to keep all our team employed while we gained a better understanding of its longer-term impact on our company,” Jared Chupaila, the CEO of Brookfield Properties’ retail group, said this week in an email to employees, which was obtained by CNBC. 

However, he said, the mall owner has now decided to make cuts “to align with the future scale of our portfolio.” 

Chupaila said the cuts are going to affect roughly 20% of the company’s workforce, across both its corporate headquarters and leasing agents on the field. It was not immediately clear the size of Brookfield Properties’ total workforce in its retail division. 

Brookfield Properties has more than 170 retail properties in 43 states, according to its website, including Brookfield Place downtown in New York City and Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas. It added a number of malls to its portfolio when it acquired the Chicago-headquartered mall owner GGP for $9.25 billion in cash back in 2018

Brookfield Asset Management’s real estate businesses employ roughly 22,000 people globally, according to its latest annual filing, which includes other asset classes like office space.

A representative from Brookfield declined to comment. 

A number of other retail real estate owners have felt similar pain. The Tennessee-based mall owner CBL & Associates is expected to file for bankruptcy protection no later than Oct. 1

The biggest U.S. mall owner in the country, Simon Property Groupfurloughed 30% of its workforce in March, as it was forced to temporarily shut its malls nationwide. It also permanently laid off some of its employees at the time. 

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