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Last year, Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine gave what is probably the defining assessment of Adam Neumann, the founder and one-time CEO of WeWork, the now-bankrupt real-estate company. “Adam Neumann,” he said, “is so good at this.” This, he went on, is not really selling real estate or any of the other less-than-fully-cooked ideas that had fleetingly propelled his company to a $47 billion valuation. His talent was in extracting money just for being who he is, the sometimes barefoot kinda-vegan corporate-consciousness elevator nonpareil. Even after 2019, when he was ejected from his company, he still made off with $1.3 billion on his way out thanks to a series of deals with his ex-company and its backer, Softbank. What has set him apart from the other Silicon Valley CEOs of the easy-money aughts is that he has proved his uncanny ability to attract money again and again, even as funding has gotten tighter and tech fads have moved on. Almost two years ago, Andreessen Horowitz gave him $350 million for a landlording-with-an-app company called Flow Global that is, it seems, is just starting to rent out apartments. He spent $44 million for 50,000 square feet of land in Miami Beach’s Bal Harbour. His net worth? According to Forbes, just north of $2 billion.
Now, Neumann is in a great position to make himself even richer. WeWork’s parent company descended into bankruptcy last year amid a broader collapse of the office-space industry. Meanwhile, his own personal fortune and apparent charisma have suffered no consequences. “It has been challenging for me to watch from the sidelines since 2019 as WeWork has failed to take advantage of a product that is more relevant today than ever before,” Neumann said in November. Add all this up and of course Neumann is now planning to buy WeWork back and get a second chance to run his hotdesking empire. The New York Times broke the news Tuesday that Nuemann has partnered with another billionaire, hedge-fund manager Dan Loeb, to raise money that would bring the company back under his control.
Right now, there is no deal. What there is is a letter written by attorney-to-the-stars Alex Spiro to WeWork’s lawyers that complains about the lack of a deal. Spiro reveals that Neumann has been trying and failing to get his company back for years. In October 2022, he “had previously worked to arrange up to $ 1 billion of financing to stabilize WeWork.” (That offer was apparently canceled while Neumann was in flight on his way to meet with the company.) Since WeWork declared bankruptcy, Neumann has not even been able to get information about the state of the company. “We write to express our dismay with WeWork’s lack of engagement even to provide information to my clients,” Spiro wrote. Neumann made a formal proposal to raise $200 million — in a deal that would make them the first to get paid back, ahead of other creditors and shareholders — but this has so far not gone anywhere.
At the moment, any deal is still being worked out, and may not even happen. Third Point, Loeb’s hedge fund, said in a statement that it “has had only preliminary conversations with Flow and Adam Neumann about their ideas for WeWork, and has not made a commitment to participate in any transaction. WeWork has also been non-committal. “We continue to believe that the work we are currently doing – addressing our unsustainable rent expenses and restructuring our business – will ensure WeWork is best positioned as an independent, valuable, financially strong and sustainable company long into the future,” a spokeswoman said in a comment.) If it does go through, this could ostensibly combine Neumann’s commercial and residential real-estate businesses, bringing him within reach of the scale and ambition that had made him so charismatic in the first place. And why wouldn’t it? It’s not like Neumann’s successors have had his level of star power — important for raising money — or were able to navigate their way around the pandemic and the decline of the commercial real-estate markets. By buying it back now, ostensibly around the bottom of WeWork’s valuation, Neumann also has the chance to easily multiply his fortune many times over just by being in the right place at the right time. Truly, Adam Neumann is so good at this.
Update: This story was updated to include a statement from Third Point, Dan Loeb’s hedge fund, and clarified that a formal financing proposal was done by Neumann alone.