‘WeCrashed’ Explores the Chaotic Story of WeWork — So What Really Happened?

wecrashed true story

Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway lead the cast in Apple TV+’s WeCrashed — a dramatisation of the rise and fall of the co-working space empire WeWork.

The eight-part series focuses on real-life couple Adam and Rebekah Neumann (nee Paltrow — one of Gwyneth’s cousins) and their part in launching and running WeWork in 2010 — attracting investors such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and the Harvard Corporation and being valued, by 2016, at USD $16 billion. The series also takes a look at their chaotic bond and what can go wrong when two narcissists fall in love.

WeCrashed is based on the Wondery podcast of the same name and tells the story of how Adam Neumann built a multi-million dollar global business, only to be ousted as CEO less than ten years later amidst a failed IPO (initial public offering) and claims of mismanagement, sexist workplace culture and various other criticisms.

Kyle Marvin, America Ferrera and O-T Fagbenle also star in the series.

What Is WeWork?

For those unfamiliar, WeWork started in New York in 2010 and promised to revolutionise workspaces. The concept was to provide shared working spaces for freelancers, start-ups and entrepreneurs to allow them the chance to collaborate more effectively (and to provide them with free beer).

The idea was particularly genius as it allowed for workers to have a proper place to work, as opposed to a coffee shop or their home, but for a fraction of the price of renting a full office space — something that was particularly appealing in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

WeWork took off very quickly, opening sites in London, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam and being valued at $47 billion by 2019. Not long after that valuation, Neumann attempted to take the company public but instead exposed hordes of problems that had been lying underneath the surface — including concerns about his own erratic behaviour and management style.

Following the attempted IPO, WeWork’s valuation was amended to around USD $10 billion.

Who Is Adam Neumann?

In WeCrashed, Leto plays Adam Neumann, an entrepreneur from Israel who moved to New York in 2001. Neumann was a businessman and former captain of the Israeli Navy who had tried his hand at launching other businesses (such as a baby clothes company) without too much success, before founding WeWork with US businessman Miguel McKelvey.

Neumann married Rebekah in 2008, and she became the chief brand officer of WeWork in 2017. The couple has five children together including two sets of twins.

In 2019, Neumann was ousted from his position of CEO of the company thanks to mounting pressure from investors after an attempt to take WeWork public failed as reports of huge losses and poor corporate governance came to light. Neumann was paid USD $1.7 billion to walk away from the empire he had founded.

What Exactly Went Wrong?

A few things, really.

For one, WeWork marketed itself as a tech company when, more accurately, it operated on more of a traditional real estate business model. This meant that despite huge injections of cash from big investors, WeWork was losing money at an alarming rate. This was due to the fact that while the workers who used their buildings only had to pay for the time they used the space, WeWork had to pay the massive overheads on all of their buildings (more than 50 of them) regardless of the occupancy.

Another issue came in the form of lawsuits that alleged WeWork was a company riddled with toxic behaviour, race and gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Neumann himself became emblematic of the issues at the embattled company as reports of his behaviour became increasingly concerning. The CEO was accused of showing up to important meetings high or hungover, smoking weed on the company private jet and even turning against his former chief of staff after she became pregnant. Neumann also started selling WeWork stock for his own benefit and even leased out his own buildings to WeWork, making him both a tenant and landlord. All of this led to his removal from the company as “faith in his ability to lead” was lost.

What Happened to WeWork?

In 2018, WeWork lost USD $2 billion and, as we mentioned earlier, the following year — after the failed IPO, its valuation plummeted from USD $47 million to just $10 million.

The IPO was postponed and the company was taken over by its biggest investor, Softbank who paid Neumann his $1.7 billion severance fee. WeWork’s valuation then plummeted again, down to USD $5 billion valuation.

By November 2019, the company had cut 20% of its workforce, which accounted for around 2,400 jobs, globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic further ravaged the business as people were forced to work from home from March 2020 onwards. The ongoing crisis resulted in hundreds more job cuts, multiple location closures and a loss of a further USD $2 billion and 70% of its membership.

What Happened to Adam and Rebecca Neumann?

Today, Adam is worth around USD$750 million, so he’s not exactly being forced to slum it.

In a 2021 interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit, Neumann expressed his regret over the way things had panned out and, particularly, for the thousands who lost their jobs.

Speaking about the missteps he had made in the wake of WeWork being valued at USD $47 million, Neumann said that he truly believed that “whatever style I was leading at was the correct style at the time.”

Admitting he lost focus on the core of his business, he conceded, “At some point, it went to my head.”

After Adam stepped down as CEO, he and Rebekah and their kids relocated to Tel Aviv for a time but returned to The Hamptons in Long Island, New York in 2020.

Rebecca apparently had plans to start a school called Student of Life For Life (SOLFL,  pronounced “soulful”), which was to be a reincarnation of WeGrow — the USD $42,000 a year elementary school she set up at WeWork’s Chelsea office that focused on yoga, entrepreneurship, and “Earth-based” learning. So far, the new school has yet to materialise, save for a website.

WeCrashed is available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping every Friday.

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