Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and other employees threw bottles of alcohol through the company headquarters’ glass walls during one of the company’s many debaucherous parties, according to a video posted on Twitter by Eliot Brown, author of “The Cult of We.”
In the video, people can be heard whooping and laughing after a bottle hurls through Neumann’s office wall, shattering the glass.
But a few years later, that goal was no longer enough. Neumann later said that, if he were to seek any office, it would be for “president of the world,” the book says.
In another incident, he stressed that WeWork needed to be very successful so that “when countries started shooting at one another, he’d be the one they’d have to call to solve their problems, the book claims.
When he moved offices, Neumann had a new exit designed so he could avoid running into staff in the main lobby on his way to the elevators, according to the book, adding that Neumann nonetheless “often seemed earnestly interested in helping others, particularly small businesses and employees in need.”
Neumann’s heightened sense of self-importance sometimes caused friction with world leaders.
He once tried to reschedule a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau less than a week out, the book says. In 2017, Neumann nearly missed a meeting with former UK Prime Minister Theresa May as well. May was attending a last-minute event at a WeWork location, and Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, wanted him to skip it because it conflicted with previously made plans: He had already promised to spend that time speaking to children about entrepreneurship at an experimental school that predated WeGrow. At the insistence of WeWork staff, Neumann attended May’s event, the book says.
On another occasion, after meeting Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Neumann told aides to stop scheduling meetings with mayors going forward and to only set talks with senators, the book says.
Neumann took a hard line when it came to defending his ambitions, sometimes ignoring pushback to his ideas.
The book claims WeWork’s former chief legal officer, Jen Berrent, once told company lawyers that when she or then-CFO Artie Minson expressed disagreement with the then-CEO, Neumann would sometimes say, “I don’t f*cking care. Do it.” Neumann also encouraged staff to alert him to what executives said about him in his absence, the book says.
Looking to the future, Neumann prioritized longevity in several aspects.
In his personal life, Neumann “aspired to live forever” and told staff humanity would eventually “solve the problem of death,” the book says. As far as his company was concerned, the ousted CEO said WeWork would be around for 300 years and remain in his family for generations.
WeWork declined to comment when reached by Insider.
In its early days, WeWork employees would often recruit new customers by pitching the idea behind the company to random people at Starbucks, a new book reveals.
Lisa Skye, WeWork’s first community manager in charge of recruiting new customers told authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell in their new book that WeWork’s early efforts relied heavily on bringing in new members through Craigslist, as well as in-person pitches. Skye said she would often wander through Starbucks in Lower Manhattan and strike up conversations with people working on laptops.
“Hi, do you come in often?” Skye told the authors she would say before launching into a carefully crafted pitch. “Offices are just $650 a month.”
While WeWork began in 2010 by spending virtually nothing on marketing and quickly gained popularity, by 2017 it was a major part of WeWork’s $1.8 billion in expenses, Brown and Farrell said. WeWork was dishing out cash to lure tenants away from competitors like Regus by calling customers based in its rival company Regus’ offices and offering massive discounts.
Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann was far from subtle when it came to competing against companies like Regus and Industrious in the community office sector.
In the summer of 2017, the CEO took Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari for a ride on a private jet. Over Bloody Marys, Neumann threatened to poach customers from Industrious, by offering the tenant free rent for a year, Brown and Farrell wrote.
“When I push the button, they’re going to start reaching out to all your customers, letting them know they can come to WeWork for free,” Neumann said, according to Brown and Farrell’s report.
If that didn’t work, they said Neumann told Hodari he would double down and offer two years free
At the time, Hodari appeared to put little stock in Neumann’s threat, but later his staff members heard from tenants that had received discounted offers from WeWork. Brown and Farrell said Neumann employed the same tactic on other competitors as well.
“Neumann was eager to rush these companies, and steal their tenants, before any presented a threat,” they wrote.
Shortly after the company’s financial status was revealed, Neumann stepped down as CEO and Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham took his place. WeWork did not respond to a request for comment from Insider on its current marketing and sales strategies.
Musk “was unimpressed and lectured Neumann about how getting there was, in fact, the hard part,” the book says, citing Neumann’s recollection of the meeting to staff.
In another meeting with a high-profile CEO, Neumann again demonstrated implausible thinking. He proposed to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky that their companies work together to build 10,000 apartments to rent on Airbnb, the book says. When Chesky replied that the number was small compared to Airbnb’s millions of rentals and thus not worth pursuing, Neumann offered a much higher number: They should build 10 million apartment units, he said. At the $100,000 cost they’d discussed to build each unit, this meant the project would require $1 trillion.
Before a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Neumann “asked aides if he should get his hair done, noting that Cook was gay,” the book says.
Neumann’s larger-than-life thinking also often led him to ask investors for incredible sums.
He wanted to raise $100 billion by the end of 2018 for a nascent investment fund, called ARK, which Neumann hoped would become the world’s largest property owner. It took Blackstone, the world’s biggest real estate fund manager, more than 30 years to reach $100 billion in real estate assets, the book says.
In 2018, Neumann told executives WeWork’s future was three-pronged: The company would have its core office space business, the investment fund ARK, and real estate services, such as cleaners or building security, according to the book. He said each would be a $1 trillion business.
The effort was part of Neumann’s quest to control the entire real estate market, the book says. He wanted to at once build, own, and lease buildings, as well as rent apartments, rather than shell out money for others to do so. To achieve this, he asked SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son for an astonishing $70 billion, the book says. The size of SoftBank’s entire Vision Fund — its investment arm that had already poured billions into WeWork — was $100 billion.
Neumann told Son that WeWork was on track to have 14 million members in 2023, up from 420,000 in 2018, the book says. Son was just as confident: He believed WeWork would have 100 million members by 2028. As of May 2021, WeWork had just under a half a million members, according to its website.
Son also wrote that WeWork would be worth a whopping $10 trillion by 2028, the book says; the figure was one-third of the value of the US stock market in 2018. Earlier this year, WeWork announced it would go public via an SPAC deal that values it far lower, at $9 billion.
The third floor of WeWork’s Chelsea office was once home to a school that “resembled a meadow,” served vegan lunches, and taught Hebrew alongside daily meditation.
According to a new book out Tuesday, the elementary school was also the site of dinner parties hosted by former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and his wife. Authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell wrote that the parties often left the classrooms a mess for teachers to clean up on Mondays before students arrived.
“Teachers arrived on several different Monday mornings to see waste strewn around the floor,” the book said. “Chairs were in the wrong classrooms; nothing looked the way staff had left it the previous Friday.”
According to the book, Rebekah Neumann conceived the private school after she was unable to find an institution for her own children that met her high standards.
The sought-after criteria included mindfulness, Hebrew lessons, a progressive curriculum, healthy food, and beautiful surroundings. WeGrow, she determined, would have all these things – with tuition priced at $48,000 per year.
Neumann recruited some of education’s brightest stars to help her “re-create the traditional classroom environment.” Brown and Farrell wrote that the hardest part was finding teachers with Neumann’s stamp of approval. Staff said she turned down many candidates for having “the wrong energy.”
Over the next two years, WeGrow would witness internal battles over curriculum, the color of the rugs, non-gendered bathrooms, and teacher salaries. After a group of teachers asked for raises, Neumann became agitated, according to “The Cult of We.”
“Why were teachers getting paid so much, and why did they want more?” Neumann said, “It’s an honor to be part of this… we don’t want staff who are just doing this for the money.” Staff said they were shocked that Neumann didn’t understand the high living costs of New York City.
Neumann ultimately stepped down from WeGrow after new co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham took over the company.
“As part of the company’s efforts to focus on its core business, WeWork has informed the families of WeGrow students that we will not operate WeGrow after this school year,” a representative said in a statement from the time. “WeWork and the families of WeGrow students are engaging in discussions with interested parties regarding plans for WeGrow for the following school year.”
Following Adam Neumann’s legal battle with SoftBank and eventual $500 million settlement, Rebekah bought back WeGrow and now owns the rights to the curriculum. She plans to rebrand the school as Student of Life For Life (SOLFL) or “soulful,” Forbes reported.
The documentary, which is available now on Hulu, brought many of aspects WeWork’s cult-like work environment – including mandatory, alcohol-fueled employee retreats – to life, and juxtaposed CEO Adam Neumann’s lofty promises with his irresponsible spending.
Here are 4 of the most surprising details revealed in the film that highlight how much of a cult WeWork resembled. WeWork was not immediately available for comment.
WeWork summer festivals would start serving alcohol at 4 a.m. and there would be open bars in every 50-yard radius.
Don Lewis, one of at least ten lawyers at WeWork, described the company’s environment as “legitimately the craziest work experience you’ll ever have in your life.”
Every year, WeWork hosted an annual “Summer Camp” employee retreat. Lewis said the Summer Camp started serving alcohol at 4 a.m. and had open bars set up every 50 yards. Scenes from inside the retreat showed raves of hundreds of young people dancing to techno music and pouring beer on top of each other.
“If you wanted to drink ’til the end of time, you could drink ’til the end of time,” Lewis said laughing.
WeWork insiders said Neumann, his wife Rebekah, and other executives would give back-to-back speeches for hours during the day, and at night they would party. Ashton Kutcher and Rick Ross appeared on the summer camp stage in the movie.
WeLive designer Quinton Kerns said he tried to get out of the summer camp one year but was told they were mandatory. Lewis said the company used tracking bracelets to make sure all employees were in attendance.
A WeLive commune designer said he “designed everything to hold the weight of two people” because every person living there was young and single
Launched in 2016, WeLive was a co-living, micro-apartment space that charged $1,375 a month for a room that was “200 square-feet on a good day,” former WeLive member August Urbish said in the documentary.
Urbish said he got a text from a friend that allowed him to rent a space in WeLive after completing an essay on why he would make a good candidate. Once Urbish arrived, he said he noticed most residents were young and single.
WeLive designer Kerns said the crew had designed everything for “the weight of two people,” suggesting the single millennials were having sex regularly.
“Everybody was single,” Kerns said. “We actually had a saying that everything had to be designed to hold the weight of two people.”
Later in the movie, Urbish said he alienated his friends outside of WeLive because of all the time he spent in the commune.
“Every time a friend outside of the We community would come over, they would only come over only that one time because they would walk out with this strange impression of what it is,” he said. “Pretty quickly, I had alienated most of my friends outside of the building.”
WeWork had dozens of C-level managers called ‘C-We-Os’ that new employees were expected to familiarize themselves with. One employee joked that is was so they could ‘bow down’ to the execs in the office.
Former WeWork product manager Joanna Strange said employee orientation meetings occurred every Monday and featured a presentation about the “mythology of WeWork.” Strange, who called the videos “propaganda,” said new employees would loudly chant “WE-WORK” at the end of the video so that the whole office could hear.
Strange said orientation videos had many slides that introduced new employees to everyone at the C-level, who WeWork referred to as “C-We-Os.”
Lewis described “C-We-Os” as “mini-CEOs” in different regions who went on skiing trips and race car driving excursions, which were presented during the orientation videos.
“The C-We-Os are people who just want to talk about their awesomeness, they had that very much in common with Adam,” Strange said. “It was almost like you needed to know who was at the top so when they came past you could bow down to them.”
Lewis added there were no minorities in the WeWork C-suite: “There wasn’t proper diversity at WeWork, period, hard stop.”
One manager bragged to colleagues over email about how many people on his team he fired: “Ha bitches I cut more than 7% of my team!”
In 2016, Strange said she was working both her job and her manager’s job to the point where he gave her his passwords. Strange said she used the passwords to log onto her manager’s accounts to do his work for him at times.
Strange said one day she found an email in her manager’s inbox with a list of people he will fire that included her. She said it appeared each manager had to cut 7% of their employees because WeWork was losing money.
Strange said her manager bragged about firing more than 7% of his workers, and that he wrote “Ha bitches I cut more than 7% of my team.”
WeWork lost $3.2 billion in 2020 as the pandemic forced its coworking spaces to shutter, down from $3.5 billion the year before, the Financial Times reported Monday.
Those losses came despite WeWork cutting its capital expenditures to just $49 million, down nearly 98% from $2.2 billion in 2019, as occupancy rates at its properties plummeted from 72% to 47%, according to the Times.
But WeWork is still eyeing a public offering, now through a potential merger with BowX, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which counts former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal among its advisors, the report said.
WeWork declined to comment.
According to the Times, WeWork is seeking $1 billion in new funding, and hopes to go public at a valuation of $9 billion, including debt. The Wall Street Journal previously reported in January that WeWork was eying a deal with the SPAC that would value it at $10 billion.
The new valuation would be less than a fifth of the $47 billion WeWork sought when it initially announced its plans for an initial public offering in 2019. Those dreams were shattered amid revelations about the company’s shaky finances, conflicts of interest, and the wild partying culture fueled by founder and then-CEO Adam Neumann.
But one investor pitched by WeWork doubted its most recent projections, which included revenues of $7 billion by 2024, adjusted earnings of $485 million next year, and 90% occupancy rates by the end of 2022, according to the Financial Times.
Neumann, after stepping down as CEO, also sued SoftBank for backing out of buying nearly $1 billion of his WeWork shares. As part of a proposed settlement, Neumann will get a $50 million payout on top of $500 million from SoftBank for buying his shares, and will leave WeWork’s board for a year, Bloomberg reported last month, helping open the door for a public offering.