"We don't have an office right now, so bear with me for this pitch."
The firm has not yet acquired new premises, and staff have been told it is likely they will have to work from home while a deal for another office is finalised.
Gordon Dadds inherited 35,000 square feet of Aldgate Tower when it acquired Ince & Co in 2018, with 14 years left to run on the lease. After Covid poleaxed office working, the firm closed one of its two floors in 2021 at a cost of £3.2m.
Adrian Biles, then the firm's CEO, said that "a greater degree of working from home for at least the medium term" meant it was only going to re-open one of the floors following lockdown, and that it would terminate the lease in October if it couldn't sub-let the space.
Now it is pulling the trigger on both floors. Ince emailed staff last week to say it was "delighted" to inform them that the firm was moving out of Aldgate Tower to a new office space at 60 Gracechurch Street.
Derided by a source as a "cheaper older" building above a Boots, the replacement location was described more positively by the firm as being "in the heart of the City".
There is one tiny issue. Businesses normally keep hold of their existing office until the new one is ready, so that staff have somewhere to work and meet. But not Ince. In an indication of the urgency of its situation, it has told staff they will probably be clearing out of Aldgate Tower before there is anywhere else to go. "Dates for the move are still to be confirmed", it said in its email, "and it is probable that there will be a period of working from home".
According to management, the heads of terms for the new letting "are agreed", but Ince is still "in the process of negotiating the precise terms of the lease".
Even after an agreement is signed, fitting out the office could take up to six months. The alternative is to skip that step and take the new premises as they are - which Ince may have to, given its perilous finances - in which case staff could be sitting on upturned crates on an empty floor within a matter of weeks.
Or the lease may never materialise, and staff will work from home permanently. That appears to be the outcome for staff at Ince's head office in Cardiff and its branch in Wandsworth, both of which a source alleged were being closed.
One of the measures Ince said it was considering to enable it to continue was "property rationalisations", which ROF predicted would involve holding meetings in the corner of Pret. And lo, it has come to pass. The firm declined to confirm details, asking RollOnFriday for a few more days to revert as it was "a fast moving situation at the moment". Which is very true.