Five years after his infamous ousting from the co-working company he founded, Adam Neumann is trying to buy back WeWork.
Lawyers representing Neumann’s new venture, Flow Global, sent a letter to WeWork advisers on Monday revealing he has been trying to meet with the company for months to negotiate a deal to buy back the company or provide it with debt financing.
But WeWork advisers have appeared hesitant to go to the negotiating table with the company’s former CEO. Neumann’s lawyers said that WeWork has had a “lack of engagement” with him and has not given the information he needs to make an offer to purchase the company or finance its debt. The company has more than $4bn in debt, according to the New York Times, which first reported on the potential deal.
The letter noted that WeWork had shut out Neumann from deals before. When Neumann tried to “arrange up to $1bn of financing to stabilize WeWork in October 2022”, the company’s then CEO Sandeep Mathrani “shut down that process without explanation” while “participants were literally in the air traveling”.
Neumann, once the prophetic leader of the company he co-founded in 2010, was pushed out in 2019 after WeWork failed to get on to the US stock market. With leverage as a major company shareholder, Neumann was able to negotiate an exit package worth nearly half a billion, with $245m in company stock and $200m in cash to leave the company. After the fallout, details of Neumann’s chaotic leadership were revealed and eventually dramatized for Hollywood in the 2022 Hulu mini-series “WeCrashed”.
In the years since WeWork’s 2019 collapse, the company – once valued at $47bn – has continued to struggle. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November as interest rates rose and demand for office space declined with more workers chosing to work from home. The company is facing frustration from its landlords, who have taken the company to court over doubts of its stability.
One of the company’s major creditors is SoftBank, the Japanese investment company that had pumped cash into Neumann’s vision of WeWork before its collapse.
Since he left WeWork, Neumann has returned to leadership, creating a new company focused on the residential real estate market. Flow Global received a huge $350m check from the venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz in 2022 to scale up Neumann’s idea of branded apartments. Think WeWork, but for renters.
“It’s often under-appreciated that only one person has fundamentally redesigned the office experience and led a paradigm-changing global company in the process,” Marc Andreessen, of the venture capital firm, wrote in a blog post in 2022. “For Adam, the successes and lessons are plenty.”
WeWork has not publicly commented on a deal with Neumann. In his efforts to get WeWork back, Neumann has the help of the hedge fund billionaire Dan Loeb, according to the New York Times, whose investment firm Third Point is known for taking over ailing companies.
Neumann’s lawyers, in their letter to WeWork, painted a brief picture of what he has in mind if WeWork gets back under his reign.
“In a hybrid work world where demand for WeWork’s product should be greater than ever, my clients believe that the synergies and management expertise offered by an acquisition could significantly exceed the value of the debtors on a stand-alone basis,” the lawyers wrote. “WeWork should at least educate itself about that potential and not preclude itself from maximizing value.”