Reality TV

WeWork’s Adam Neumann Has Some Regrets, No Apologies


In his first interview since being ousted as CEO of WeWork, Adam Neumann admitted that the company’s onetime $47 billion valuation went to his head. But he did not apologize to the WeWork employees whose stock options dematerialized when the company underwent a spectacular corporate downfall not seen since the likes of Theranos. “Yes, the valuation made us feel like we were right, which made me feel that whatever style I was leading at was a correct style at the time,” Neumann told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on Tuesday at The New York Times’ DealBook Online Summit. “Maybe it went to my head. I do think at some point it did.… When the whole world is telling you that, yes, we believed it and we thought it was really happening.”

Neumann said JPMorgan Chase executive Jamie Dimon personally advised him to leave WeWork in the days leading up to his resignation. “He told me, ‘Adam, you have done a great job until now but you will have to put the company first,’” he said. “I trusted Jamie and I looked up to Jamie. I still do.” He was also grilled about the controversial severance package––worth roughly $1 billion––that he received upon leaving the company. “What do you say to all of the employees—and we’re talking about thousands of employees who lost their job, whose [stock] options effectively became worthless at that $47 billion valuation—who look at you and say, not only did this all happen under your watch, but you walked away with more than a billion dollars?” Sorkin asked

Newman replied that he was “disappointed” on behalf of those employees, but argued that taking equity in a startup always has its “risks.” As for his own earnings? “This perception that as the company went from a $47 billion valuation down to $9 billion, that I profited somehow while the company was going down, is completely false,” he said. “The market now decided that it’s worth $9 billion. It’s getting measured on a daily basis and I actually think WeWork today has a better opportunity than it had then.” (Neumann’s DealBook appearance comes less than a month after WeWork went public with a $9 billion valuation.)

Neumann spoke of the “multiple lessons and multiple regrets” he has reflected on over the past few years, but he downplayed the rumors of WeWork’s toxic office culture, including wild parties and his own alleged drug use on the company’s private jet. Such claims, he said, “make good stories for movies and television shows”—what’s more, his jet-setting was “very needed,” he said, as he was obliged to visit WeWork locations across the country. “People focus on that so much, they are missing the actual story,” he lamented. “The fact of having a plane is detracting from the actual success.” These days, that fact is no longer relevant: In September 2019, Business Insider reported that WeWork’s storied plane—a Gulfstream G650—would go up for sale.

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