Saturday 21 September 2019

More modest sums: Founder of WeWork's fortune plunges ahead of IPO

Billionaire: Co-founder and CEO of WeWork Adam Neumann. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for WeWork
Billionaire: Co-founder and CEO of WeWork Adam Neumann. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for WeWork

Sophie Alexander and Tom Metcalf

Adam Neumann was poised to become one of the world's richest entrepreneurs.

This year, more than a decade after he launched WeWork, the space-sharing real-estate company planned to go public with some bankers privately touting a valuation as high as $65bn (€59bn).

That would have pegged Neumann's current 22pc stake in the unprofitable business at $14bn, at least on paper, catapulting him into the ranks of the world's 150 richest people.

But Neumann (40) may have to make do with a more modest fortune after a rough run-up to WeWork parent We Co's initial public offering that has left creditors questioning where the firm will turn next for financing as it continues to burn cash and its bonds tumble.

The IPO prospects soured further after the disclosure of unorthodox financial dealings between Neumann and the company, including personal loans, real-estate leases and stock sales.

Regulatory filings show early investor Fidelity Investments cut its valuation on We Co to $18.3bn in March, well before Wall Street began to scale back its own expectations for an IPO. The predicted valuation is now as low as $15bn, according to people with knowledge of the matter. That would leave Neumann with a stake of about $3bn - not enough for a listing in the 500-member Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Still, that's nothing to sneeze at, particularly for someone who spent part of his childhood on a kibbutz. Neumann moved to New York from Israel in 2001 to have fun and make a lot of money, as he put it in a commencement address at Baruch College, his alma mater. Then he met Rebekah, his future wife, who's listed in a prospectus as a co-founder, chief brand and impact officer, and a "strategic thought partner".

Adrian Zamora, a company spokesman, declined to comment.

Neumann and co-founder Miguel McKelvey started WeWork after sharing an office space in Brooklyn. McKelvey, like Neumann, spent part of his childhood in a communal environment: a collective in Oregon.

"We are making a capitalist kibbutz," Neumann said in a 2017 interview with Israeli newspaper 'Haaretz'.


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