WeWork’s parent company is mulling slashing its valuation from a staggering $47 billion to $10 billion as it announced a corporate governance overhaul in a desperate bid to save its upcoming initial public offering amid growing investor criticism over WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann’s dominant hold on the troubled firm.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed on Friday, We Company said that a new lead independent director would be appointed by the end of the year, saying that the decision was made “in response to market feedback.”
The governance revamp will also see Neumann’s outsize control of the company reduced, with his voting rights dropping from 20 votes a share to only 10, The Financial Times reported, adding that the supervoting shares will be entirely canceled in the time of his death.
The filing also removed the role of his wife, co-founder Rebekah, in choosing his successor, the report further said. “Any chief executive officer who succeeds Adam will be selected by our board of directors, acting as a group. We will not rely on a succession committee. Our board has the ability to remove our chief executive officer,” the filing read.
No member of Neumann’s family will also be allowed to sit on the board when the time to choose the current leader’s successor comes.
The filing confirmed earlier reports that WeWork’s executives, investors, and advisers were working to curb Neumann’s role in the company as his planned IPO backfires and sends the company reeling to raise cash to keep its operations on track.
Neumann Faces Toughest Times Yet at the Helm of WeWork
A decade ago, the 40-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of WeWork introduced a shared workspace, building on the aftermath of the U.S. financial crisis in the early 2000s after several attempts at numerous failed ventures.
The young Neumann, together with his business partner, Miguel McKelvey, sold their first co-working firm named Green Door for only $300,000 to create WeWork. The company thrived from the lower Manhattan area until it became a success years after.
Experts believe the success was driven by the 2008 financial meltdown, which saw millions of Americans and migrants lose their jobs.
Carrying the tagline “to make a life, not just a living,” WeWork slowly established its name among the founders of shared workspace, having had opened sites across the globe in line with its mission of creating a global impact.
“It quickly became apparent that people were ready for a new approach to work, not just their workspace,” Neumann said in 2016 as they opened the company iconic 100th site in Berlin.
The current IPO debacle serves as the most challenging time for Neumann at the helm of WeWork, which he’s been heading for nearly a decade now. His plans to take We Company public is looking to fail massively as more investors veer away due to widening losses and the risks that come with the offering.
Neumann was also forced to return a controversial $6-million payment he received from the company, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Ambitious Plans Despite Current Fiasco
Despite the current situation, the workspace company is looking to ramp up its IPO roadshow this month and is set to list on the Nasdaq stock market after taking a questionably long time deciding to list between Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange.
The company is hoping to raise at least $3 billion in its IPO and win over $6 billion in backing from banks to create a financing package that will give it the financial flexibility to survive an economic downturn.
In January, We company raised $47 billion in private fundraising as it gathered support from the likes of Softbank Group Corp. Though the Japanese giant could buy a quarter of the shares WeWork is looking to offer in its IPO for around $750 million, sources familiar to the matter believe the Japanese company has declared its limits.
Softbank has also been convincing Neumann to shelve the IPO. If the Japanese firm decides to go against its earlier pronouncements and pump money into WeWork, positive things could happen. But two people briefed on the Softbank-WeWork talks said these discussions are not final and could also fall apart.