American office space and coworking provider WeWork filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 6 November 2023. However, this has not affected the net worth of its most famous co-founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) — Adam Neumann.
WeWork was created in 2010 by Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. The company quickly gained attention and Neumann gained wealth on the back of his ‘charismatic’ image. But WeWork was also plagued by his unbridled spending and general mismanagement.
Commenting on the fall of the company, BBC said that it is a “tale of monstrous ego, vaulting ambition and a credulous public.”
According to Fortune, WeWork has USD 19 billion of liabilities and USD 15 billion of assets at the time of bankruptcy filing. Its long-time backers, including Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp. and its venture capital arm Vision Fund, are staring at major losses.
Despite the tumble of his company, Neumann has hardly anything to worry about. He remains a billionaire and would likely remain so if he had taken lessons from his time at WeWork.
Adam Neumann and WeWork: Formation to collapse
WeWork was born out of a business named Greendesk, which Neumann created in 2008 when he persuaded his landlord to rent out some floors of a building.
According to the BBC, “It served free fairtrade coffee and celebrated kibbutz-style, communal living.” Kibbutz refers to a communal farm or settlement in Israel. Neumann, who is Israeli-American, grew up in a kibbutz before coming to New York in 2001.
As Greendesk quickly gained popularity, it got an investment of USD 15 million from a real-estate developer and changed its name to WeWork with Neumann as its CEO.
By January 2019, WeWork was worth USD 47 billion. WeWork continued on an expansion spree, spreading its net into more than 20 countries over the course of its spectacular rise. Neumann hobnobbed with celebrities such as Drake and Ashton Kutcher, the latter of whom is himself a tech investor.
But after the peak and all the glitz and glamour came the fall.
WeWork was set to launch its initial public offering (IPO) when Neumann stepped down as CEO in September 2019. It came after critics noticed irregularities in the IPO paperwork filed by the company in December 2018 as We Company.
The BBC report states that authorities discovered losses much bigger than initially estimated as well as an “odd relationship between the company’s finances and Neumann’s own.”
A CNBC report says that there were self-dealings, such as selling the trademark to the word “We” for USD 6 million in stock, which Neumann later returned.
The IPO was withdrawn, and the valuation of the company fell by around USD 40 billion soon after.
SoftBank, the largest shareholder of WeWork, rescued the company from complete collapse by offering to buy USD 3 billion of stocks from Neumann after the IPO failed. Neumann was to personally receive USD 1 billion out of the deal.
But SoftBank attempted to pull out of the deal in April 2020. This meant a loss of the USD 1 billion that Neumann was set to receive and his actual net worth plunged to just USD 400 million.
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Neumann sued SoftBank and in February 2021, they settled for an agreement in which he received USD 480 million and an additional USD 50 million to cover legal fees.
In October 2021, by this time under new management, WeWork found a breather. It came in the form of a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). As part of the SPAC, WeWork merged with blank check company BowX Acquisition Corp. and went public at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at a valuation of USD 8 billion.
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Today, as WeWork filed for bankruptcy protection, its value is just USD 45 million — more than one thousand times lower than its peak value from January 2019.
“As the co-founder of WeWork who spent a decade building the business with an amazing team of mission-driven people, the company’s anticipated bankruptcy filing is disappointing,” Adam Neumann said in a statement to CNBC following the bankruptcy announcement.
“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. I believe that, with the right strategy and team, a reorganization will enable WeWork to emerge successfully,” he added.
The net worth of Adam Neumann and how he is still a billionaire
While WeWork is now in the pits, Neumann apparently has nothing much to worry about.
Forbes estimates that his real-time net worth as of 8 November 2023 is USD 2.2 billion. Bloomberg Billionaires Index pegs that figure to USD 1.7 billion.
Though it is less than half of what it was at the peak of WeWork in 2019, Neumann is still in a strong position. He continues to own almost 10 per cent stake in the public company after selling USD 1 billion of his stocks at the time of his departure when the company was private.
He also made millions while he was involved with WeWork. According to Fortune, his name was mentioned 197 times in a merger filing alongside “eye-watering payouts.” These included a USD 185 million non-compete agreement, USD 106 million settlement payment and USD 578 million received for shares sold by Neumann’s We Holdings to SoftBank.
There was also a USD 432 million loan given by SoftBank to Neumann, which was secured by part of his WeWork stake, which is now worthless.
He was paid a “consulting fee” of USD 46 million by SoftBank while he was with the company. Gizmodo reported in November 2019 that the WeWorkers Coalition, a non-unionised group of the company’s employees who were badly affected by the actions of Neumann in mismanagement of the business, claimed in an open letter that the amount the former CEO was paid was more than the salaries of almost all CEOs of public companies in the US in 2018.
The net worth of Neumann was around USD 2.3 billion when WeWork went public in October 2021. A third of this net worth was on the back of his shares in WeWork. The value of the shares has now fallen by more than 99 per cent, which means they are worth nothing.
Neumann acted quickly and smartly after moving out of WeWork. He acquired majority stakes in apartment buildings worth nearly USD 1 billion before debt.
He runs the residential real estate startup Flow, which venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz valued at over USD 1 billion in 2022. It has also been reported that he is behind the blockchain-based carbon credit trading start-up named Flowcarbon.
Assets that Adam Neumann owns
Adam Neumann reportedly spent his money lavishly in the real estate market while he was with WeWork. According to Business Insider, he owns at least five properties worth USD 80 million. Most of them are in the state of New York.
Among them is a house in the Hamptons, which he bought for more than USD 1.7 million in 2012. The Hamptons boasts celebrity homes such as those of Jimmy Fallon and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Two years later, he bought a six-bedroom, five-and-half-bathroom townhouse in New York City’s Greenwich Village for USD 10.5 million in 2014. The townhouse was originally built in 1847.
He added another New York property in 2016 — the Linden Farm estate in Pound Ridge town in Westchester County. The estate is spread over an area of 0.2 sq km and has a house measuring 1271 sq metres. The house has eight bedrooms and as many bathrooms. The estate has a horse stable among several other amenities and features, including proximity to a preserved land measuring 18.2 sq km.
Neumann bought four units, including a duplex penthouse, in a seven-storey Gramercy Park townhouse in New York City for USD 34.7 million in 2017.
His last known real-estate purchase and only known property outside of New York is a 1207-sq-metre estate in the San Francisco Bay Area bought for USD 21 million in 2018.
One of his most talked about possessions was a Gulfstream G650ER private jet, which was bought for USD 60 million by WeWork for his use. He used the aircraft to fly around the world, hold mid-air business meetings, and his family’s travels.
According to Business Insider, the aircraft became the symbol of the extravagant spending at WeWork. It was reported in early 2020 that WeWork had put the aircraft up for sale following Neumann’s departure from the company and the troubles it was embroiled in by then.
(Hero and Featured images: Shahar Azran/Getty Images)
Frequently Asked Questions:
– How much is Adam Neumann’s net worth?
Adam Neumann’s net worth, as of 11 November 2023, is between USD 1.7 billion and USD 2.2 billion.
– How much does Adam Neumann earn annually?
It is not clear how much Adam Neumann earns annually as of 2023. However, he was paid a consulting fee of USD 46 million by SoftBank when he was with WeWork.