Adam Neumann, the co-founder of temporary office space unicorn WeWork, is stepping down as CEO. Let’s remember the good times.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both report that Neumann is expected to remain on as a chairman of We Company but is vacating his role as head of the firm following the public embarrassment of We’s delayed IPO. As the company made moves to go public, investors began questioning whether what was effectively a real estate venture had earned a valuation reminiscent of a tech firm. (“No,” they decided.) Accordingly, the $47 billion estimated valuation We had shopped around reportedly plummeted to between $15 billion and $30 billion.
While the failure to bring WeWork to market at this wildly inflated price might be the catalyzing event to Neumann’s ouster, more than a few stories over his tenure have portrayed him as erratic and detached from reality. Reports of him laying off 300 employees only to pass around shots of Tequila and host a concert for DMC (of Run-DMC fame), saying things like “my superpower is change,” and his alleged questionable mingling of personal and business finances have led to an image of him as part CEO, part cult leader.
Of course, there was also the time he was reportedly caught on a plane with a huge weed nug, or when he allegedly mused about becoming either prime minister of Israel (a real job) or “president of the world” (a fake one). Who could forget his wife, who reportedly “ordered multiple employees fired after meeting them for just minutes, telling staff she didn’t like their energy,” according to the Journal. It really is the end of an era for WeWork, a fantastical business operating, in more ways than one, on the power of magical thinking.
From the outside, almost anyone could tell that WeWork’s plan to buy up long-term leases and essentially resell them made for an overextended mess of a business model, and it’s unclear what new leadership can do to salvage the $12.8 billion investors have already sunk into the venture.
Benchmark, one of the investor firms believed to have nudged Neumann off the throne along with We Co.’s biggest investor, Softbank, also led the coup of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Uber has since gone public in a disastrously bad IPO and its stock has underperformed since.