Do you admire Adam Neumann of WeWork?

James_Dearsley2James_Dearsley2 Member, Administrator admin
edited October 2019 in News and Article Discussion

I find this article a staggering mixture of quotes, business mistakes, ego and fraud.
Therefore my question is whether you admire him for what he has done - this could be to build an $8bn business (or is it a $47bn business) or is it forever tainted because of the last 6mths.

Will he be admired in years to come?


  • Interesting question. In many ways definitely. Not only for taking a revolutionary idea to the top (at least for a time), but for having the charisma to raise such a vast amount of money. We can all judge his failure, but how many of us are “better people”. Easy to judge now...

  • He was doing really well until it all came crashing down. He is still a visionary and a great salesman, but he probably believed his own headlines way too much.
  • James_Dearsley2James_Dearsley2 Member, Administrator admin

    "We can all judge his failure, but how many of us are “better people”.

    That is why 'admire' is the interesting point here I think @Adam_Balsam and"@Steve_Murphy...... He certainly did something pretty amazing with a firm from nothing to literally create a brand an industry has now been built around but........... Not sure it was built the right way

  • It’s hard to admire anyone who creates so much misfortune for so many people whilst profiting themselves. Do you admire Mike Ashley? Do you admire Philip Green?

    In the world of flex space the people who deserve admiration are those like Justin Stewart at Industrious, Ryan Simonetti at Convene and Charlie and Olly at TOG. These people have scaled their business and responded to consumer demand.

  • I’ve been following WeWork since 2011 when I got stranded in NYC during the Icelandic volcanic ash disruption. I found myself in New York with 2 weeks of unplanned downtime and so I set off in search of new ideas and concepts.

    I was a huge fan of the WeWork model for quite a few years and gave serious consideration to starting my own coworking business on more than one occasion over the last 7-8 years (locations I looked at at the time included Spain, Dubai and London).

    You have to recognise Adam’s huge charisma and talent as a sales person but I cannot bring myself to admire the man given what has transpired - especially the big payday when thousands of employees face jobs losses.

    Having watched the business (and valuation) grow over the past 8 years the feeling I get is that around 4 years back he got completely lost in his own ego and “reality distortion field”. Being constantly referred to as a “self made billionaire” and “tech visionary” goes to the head.

    As an early stage investment promoter the guy was a genius, he figured out how to take key action words and terminology from the tech sector and applied it to a new variant of a long established real estate business model (rent to rent). All of a suddenly something Servcorp and Regus were doing for decades looked fresh and innovative, visionary even.

    If he had kept his ego in check and if his board of directors had reined him in a little on the crazy stuff like wave pool investments, G65 jets they might have pulled it off.

    How a board of directors could have allowed a pre-IPO filing document like that to be released into the public I will never understand - clearly Adam has them all mesmerised with his charisma, a dangerous quality but one we have seen before with people like Bernie Madoff or the board of Enron. I feel the board are just as culpable for the IPO disaster and should all resign as well.

    Easy for me to say this now but I predicted SoftBank would end up owning 100% of WeWork with no Adam about 2 years ago. As Prof. Galloway says, it was a win for math and the retail investor in the end. My only concern is that this could have longer term implications for the VC market and we could start to see funding dry up as investors get more selective.

  • James_Dearsley2James_Dearsley2 Member, Administrator admin

    So Adam is/was amazing @gavinjgallagher but the board are to blame for jot keeping it all on track and letting him believe his own hype?

    @James_Pellatt good point but that might perhaps be with hindsight in mind? I would say many before the last 6mths would have said Adam was a genius too.....

  • @James_Dearsley2 in my view Adam does have some extraordinary talents, not least his Pied Piper like skills to keep the board mesmerised long enough that none of them questioned the underlying fundamentals and just continued to believe the hype. Notwithstanding his talents I think the collapse of the company rests squarely at his feet but I do think the board are equally culpable for allowing things to get out of control - a wave pool business? He really should have been taken down a peg or two for that - the lesson here is that dual class shares that give the founder super voting rights are like nuclear fuel rods - they all work fine while things are operating within normal limits but as soon as things start to go wrong they can be a force multiplier in terms of damage.

  • I admire whoever wrote the headline of the article.
  • Eddie_HolmesEddie_Holmes Administrator admin
  • I think today’s quick win culture is an enabler to these types of situations. This situation got way too hyped and there was clearly a loss of control and momentum got the better of common sense. Having read the book Bad Blood by John Carreyrou it’s another example of things can get wildly valued without any foundation. What is really sad is that peoples lives get affected, loss of jobs and there is also the impact on mental health. We should be more considerate at the top level of companies.
    Slow and steady wins the day.
  • I agree with your point, @Peter_Thompson although I don't think it's today's quick win culture. I think it's a symptom of greed, which has always been around. Some people get away with it, some don't. In the case of WeWork, part of its downfall might have been the public shaming of Adam Neumann. He's someone people love to hate and enough people wanted him to fail. I thought of this because I'm reading Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. I hope that public shaming will be used for good reasons and improve the real estate industry. While we can laugh at Adam Neumann's failure, we can also admire the success he's had at disrupting the industry - which was much needed.
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