Sep 21, 2021 - Economy & Business

A look at WeWork's most notable moments

Illustration of an office building exterior with the WeWork logo changed into the letters "WTF!"
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

WeWork will finally become publicly traded next month — two years after its failed IPO attempt — as it completes its merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Flashback: Since the co-working office company's initial public listing plans flamed out in spectacular fashion, WeWork has become a very different company.

But here are some of our favorite moments from its history:

  • WeGrow: The brainchild of co-founder Rebekah Neumann, in 2017 the company announced a grade school to nurture entrepreneurs early. It was cut shortly after the company scrapped its IPO, but Rebekah Neumann later bought it back.
  • “Community-adjusted EBITDA”: The WeWork-devised financial metric first surfaced in an August 2018 bond offering. It was immediately called out as the ultimate manifestation of a useless measurement only created to make a company’s numbers look good. Read Axios' Dan Primack's chat with the company's operations chief about it.
  • Meat ban: Also in 2018, the company announced that in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint — and help save the planet — it would no longer serve meat, nor allow employees to expense any meals that include it. Staffers then saw co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann eating lamb and other meat at the office.
  • Lifetime control: One shocking detail from WeWork’s (initial) S-1 filing was Neumann's outsized voting control (20 votes per share). His estate was also given the power to choose his replacement as CEO. The company eventually amended these after pushback.
  • Vibes: When WeWork hit a $20 billion valuation, thanks to an investment from SoftBank, Neumann told Forbes:
"No one is investing in a co-working company worth $20 billion. That doesn't exist. Our valuation and size today are much more based on our energy and spirituality than it is on a multiple of revenue."
  • $10 trillion: But that was pocket change compared to the $10 trillion (yes, trillion) that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son predicted WeWork could be worth in a decade when he was negotiating a potential purchase of a majority stake in the company in 2018 for $20 billion, per the WSJ's Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell.
  • “Consulting fees”: Following Neumann’s ouster as CEO, SoftBank offered to pay Neumann $1 billion for his shares, a $185 million “consulting fee” and $500 million in credit to repay his loans, for a total package of $1.7 billion. Yep, that’s a $185 million payment just to get him off the board, and nothing else.
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