Whilst the organisation has always been very opaque as to the status of its finances, it is possible to look at recent developments and make some informed deductions.
Over the past year we have seen:
- Watchtower construction projects slashed.
- Many full time servants sent home from their assignments.
- Bethel families significantly downsized, and Bethel services jettisoned
- Shrinking and vanishing publications.
- Public admissions of shortfalls from the Governing Body.
- Increasingly pointed demands for donations.
- Appeals for children’s ice-cream money.
- Significant expenses in terms of lost Child Abuse lawsuits, with a seemingly unending stream of cases still in the pipeline.
All of the above would seem to indicate that the Organisation is struggling financially. Yet, they no doubt took solace from the fact they had a major source of funding lined up to provide a much needed cash injection. Watchtower are selling their famous and long cherished Brooklyn Heights Headquarters and moving to a new HQ in Warwick. The move was expected to net them close to 1 Billion USD, and the injection of the badly needed extra funds would surely be viewed by many Witnesses as a blessing from Jehovah, and an example of Him providing for His people in their time of need.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Jehovah might not be providing quite as much financial help as previously hoped.
A number of reports have appeared on various online news outlets that Watchtower’s properties are not fetching the prices that had originally been quoted. For example, the 17-29 Columbia Heights and 18-36 Columbia Heights package looks like it will sell for around $220 million. That sounds like a huge amount, until you know that it was originally expected to sell for over $300 million.
In other words, Watchtower look set to loose $80 million on this part of the sell off alone. What is causing this to happen? The report at NY Curbed.com states:
The softening of the economy, for one thing; but the Post also speculates that the Watchtower headquarters, built in 1924, will require significant upgrades, particularly for the tech-focused companies that have been moving into that section of Brooklyn. WeWork and Etsy have both moved into a building once owned by the Witnesses that was purchased by Jared Kushner in 2013.
This isn’t the first financial hit Watchtower has taken on the sale. It was also reported in January by a number of outlets including the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Times that Watchtower was under huge pressure to give the City of New York $5 million to make good on broken promises made over a decade ago. The Organisation had apparently promised to renovate Dumbo Park in exchange for the re-zoning permits that had served to make their land so valuable. Watchtower got the re-zoning it wanted, but had apparently done nothing to honour their side of the agreement for the past ten years.
Local politicians and business leaders wrote a letter to Watchtower on the subject that stated, in part:
“It is unacceptable that since the Watchtower committed to work with the Parks Department, over 11 years have passed, the site has seen no improvements, and remains a piece of barren asphalt.”
It is reported that due to the mounting PR and civic pressure, Watchtower relented and has promised to provide the funds requested, though as of time of writing it is not confirmed that final payment has been made, and officials quoted in the above reports article expressed concern that Watchtower may yet fail to make good on it’s promises.
Either way, it appears that unless the Brooklyn deal picks up pace, Witnesses may have to brace themselves for many more Watchtower requests for their children’s ice-cream money in the future.