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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.

Go deeper

Sep 23, 2021 - Health

Devoted Health to be valued above $11 billion in new round

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Devoted Health, a health insurance startup that focuses on Medicare Advantage plans, is raising up to $1.2 billion in new funding at around an $11.5 billion valuation, according to a Delaware stock authorization filing.

Why it matters: The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company serves around 40,000 seniors in four states, more than double from the first half of 2020, and wants to eventually become a nationwide provider.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

COVID cases and deaths keep falling

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

America’s coronavirus outbreak is rapidly improving as the Delta wave recedes, and vaccines for kids — which could become available within weeks — will help the situation improve even further.

By the numbers: Nationwide, the U.S. is now averaging about 79,000 new cases per day — a 22% drop over the past two weeks.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the pandemic caused a corporate rebound

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WeWork becomes a public company today worth more than $9 billion — a vindication of the expensive turnaround strategy employed after it spectacularly imploded in 2019. Like many companies that find themselves at death's door, that which didn't kill them made them stronger.

Why it matters: Hertz, Alamo Drafthouse, Airbnb, and Toast are among the currently-thriving companies that were shaken to the core in the early days of the pandemic — providing further evidence for the theory that, in the words of former Fast Company editor Bill Taylor, "companies can't be great unless they've almost failed."