Adam Neumann had a vision.
The WeWork co-founder wasn’t just renting temporary office space. He was reconstructing the sense of community that had been lost by remote working and email and the other technological advances that had left people feeling more disconnected from their neighbors and colleagues. Initially, financiers bought what Neumann was selling, with the likes of SoftBank bankrolling the company’s global expansion and sending WeWork’s valuation into the stratosphere.
But as a new documentary, “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” illustrates, Neumann was undone by the punishing reality of a bottom line. At some point, companies need to have a viable way to make a profit. After WeWork’s planned initial public offering imploded in 2019 under the withering scrutiny of investors who were unimpressed with the company’s financial disclosures and its creative accounting, Neumann was pushed out. However, he was able to make a soft landing thanks to a golden parachute that gave him a reported $1.7 billion to walk away. “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” premieres on Hulu on April 2. Jed Rothstein, the documentary’s director, spoke with Variety about what made Neumann an effective salesman, but a fatally flawed leader.
How did Adam get so many people, including some very sophisticated investors, to buy into his vision?
He’s very charismatic. The younger people and the people who worked for him bought into the idea that they were part