The rise and dramatic fall of Adam Neumann: How ex-WeWork CEO saw firm rocket before nearly sinking

The rise and dramatic fall of Adam Neumann: How ex-WeWork CEO saw firm rocket before nearly sinking 2
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He was the young businessman who appeared to have it all – a rocketing fortune, flash cars and sprawling properties.

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But ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann appears to have stuttered in life, with his recent ventures quickly failing to take off.

Yesterday it emerged his newest project – a climate firm called FlowCarbon – was forced to come to a stop after the latest cryptocurrency crash.

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The firm planned to issue crypto backed by carbon credits so companies could offset a metric ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

But on Sunday it said was pulling the plug on its planned launch due to plummeting coin prices, which have seen $2trillion wiped from the crypto-sphere in months.

It marks the latest in a raft of failures for Neumann, following huge investments in around 50 startups from mortgage lending to AI.

Meanwhile he is believed to have amassed a $1 billion real estate portfolio, with properties across the country including two worth $44million in Miami.

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Two years after he was ousted from WeWork Adam Neumann is at it again - founding companies, and then flopping them

Two years after he was ousted from WeWork Adam Neumann is at it again – founding companies, and then flopping them

Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah. In his latest misadventure, a Nuemann-founded crypto startup, FlowCarbon, announced on Sunday it was delaying its planned launch date after being gutted by the recent crypto market crash.

Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah. In his latest misadventure, a Nuemann-founded crypto startup, FlowCarbon, announced on Sunday it was delaying its planned launch date after being gutted by the recent crypto market crash.

In his latest misadventure, a Nuemann-founded crypto startup, FlowCarbon, announced on Sunday it was delaying its planned launch date after being gutted by the recent crypto market crash.

The company planned to help people offset their carbon emissions by selling cryptocurrencies in lieu of carbon credits – permits purchased by businesses and developers that allows them to offset a metric ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

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The company – which calls Neumann its ‘founder’ but stresses he is not involved in its daily operations – said Sunday that it would ‘wait for markets to stabilize’ before starting its operations following the disappearance of nearly $2trillion from the crypto-sphere in recent months.

FlowCarbon’s stuttering start is unlikely to deter Neumann, who since he was spiked from WeWork for running it to the brink of bankruptcy has been using the nearly $1billion golden parachute he received in the fallout of the company’s calamitous 2019 IPO to fuel his corporate comeback.

The 42-year-old billionaire has spent the years since his fall from grace buying and selling some of his many homes, plotting a residential real estate revolution, and watching his one-time reputation as a world-changing Silicon-Valley messiah be picked apart by tell-all books and television shows.

The Israeli-born Neumann earned his riches as the co-founder of WeWork in 2010, raising more than $10 billion to fund the business which was once valued at $47 billion.

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At WeWork he hawked a vison of happy millennials sharing a workspace, playing shuffleboard, drinking unlimited beer and basking in the neon light of kitschy motivational signs.

Despite the company’s utopian face, employees later characterized it as having a ‘cult-like’ environment, and called Neumann the ‘partyer in chief’ while describing his ‘tequila-fueled leadership style,’ which included smoking marijuana on private jets and trying to become immortal.

In one incident of excess, Neumann threw a three day party for 8,000 employees to celebrate the company’s $37billion valuation. Lorde performed, there beatboxing workshops and lakeside meditation sessions, and even and motivational speeches by Deepak Chopra.

The startup seeks to reduce or remove the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, creating an on-chain cryptocurrency market to drive funding directly to projects geared at quelling pollution

The startup seeks to reduce or remove the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, creating an on-chain cryptocurrency market to drive funding directly to projects geared at quelling pollution

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Bitcoin, the world's most popular cryptocurrency, dropped in June to a low not seen in a year and a half - $17,592.78 - falling below the important $20,000 resistance marker for the first time since 2020. It has since rebounded slightly, but is still well below desired levels

Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, dropped in June to a low not seen in a year and a half – $17,592.78 – falling below the important $20,000 resistance marker for the first time since 2020. It has since rebounded slightly, but is still well below desired levels

The drastic drop, spurred by high inflation and upcoming rate hikes from the Fed, saw other smaller tokens that usually move in tandem with the coin, such as Ethereum, fall to similar lows - spurring experts to warn of an impending crisis

The drastic drop, spurred by high inflation and upcoming rate hikes from the Fed, saw other smaller tokens that usually move in tandem with the coin, such as Ethereum, fall to similar lows – spurring experts to warn of an impending crisis

Perhaps most notable was Neumann’s personal alcohol tab at the party, which consisted of 12 cases of Don Julio 1942 tequila that costs $140 for a single bottle, for him and his wife Rebekah. He also ordered 216 bottles of beer, 48 bottles of wine and two bottles of Highland Park’s 30-year-old single-malt Scotch whisky, that cost $1,000 each.

In her book Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Fall of WeWork, Reeves Wiedeman described the oftentimes unhinged excesses of a man who walked through the office barefoot and would jump on people’s desks and conference tables and yell.

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Neumann would blare music at party volumes and scream at anyone who asked for it to be turned down, ex-employees have claimed.

He demanded that cases of Don Julio 1942 tequila were at every office and would ‘lose his s***’ if they were not there.

Neumann would blare music at party volumes and scream at anyone who asked for it to be turned down, ex-employees have claimed.

Neumann would blare music at party volumes and scream at anyone who asked for it to be turned down, ex-employees have claimed.

In the book Billion Dollar Loser, Reeves Wiedeman wrote that Neumann was often 'giving rousing speeches in the open atrium' with 'WeWork employees fawning over their boss as if they were disciples pledging fealty to a fiery preacher'.

In the book Billion Dollar Loser, Reeves Wiedeman wrote that Neumann was often ‘giving rousing speeches in the open atrium’ with ‘WeWork employees fawning over their boss as if they were disciples pledging fealty to a fiery preacher’.

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Staff said that he would schedule meetings for 2am and then turn up 45 minutes late.

Employees who quit say in the book it was like ‘escaping (cults like) Jonestown or Waco’ – and there were always new believers to take their place.   

Despite poor wages at WeWork angering staff, Neumann bragged about how little he paid his staff and insisted there they were supposed to use a ‘sense of purpose’ and free beer to pay their bills, the book says.

In her book, Reeves Wiedeman described the described the oftentimes unhinged excesses of Neumann while at WeWork

In her book, Reeves Wiedeman described the described the oftentimes unhinged excesses of Neumann while at WeWork

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Even WeWork tenants began to get fed up with this attitude, and when The Guardian moved into a WeWork space they found there were ‘constant celebrations’ that put them off.

Wiedeman writes that Neumann was often ‘giving rousing speeches in the open atrium’ with ‘WeWork employees fawning over their boss as if they were disciples pledging fealty to a fiery preacher’.

By the time Neumann was forced out, WeWork was the largest office tenant in New York and the second in London only to Her Majesty’s government.

Yet Neumann’s ambitions were far larger than that and he was imagining WeBank, WeSail – the company rebranded as the WeCompany to reflect its new goals

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WeGrow was an elementary school with annual tuition of $42,000 and the person who took charge of it was Neumann’s wife Rebekah, who is the cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

Each day began with teachers playing ukuleles followed by a 25 minute meditation, yet the public were not convinced and the New York Post asked: ‘Is this NYC’s most obnoxious elementary school?’

Neumann's ambitions were far larger than that and he was imagining WeBank, WeSail - the company rebranded as the WeCompany to reflect its new goals

Neumann’s ambitions were far larger than that and he was imagining WeBank, WeSail – the company rebranded as the WeCompany to reflect its new goals

A lack of diversity at WeWork became a problem and began to gain attention. When a woman finally joined the engineering staff they had to rewrite the underlying code because they had described a reddish color in the design as ‘hooker’s blood’.

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Once when asked about the lack of women at the company, Neumann said: ‘Diversity? I’m a brunette, Michael’s blond and we have Noah’, referring to two other employees, the latter of which was gay.

In 2018 Ruby Anaya, a former WeWork employee, filed a lawsuit saying she had been sexually harassed at company events.

She accused them of operating a ‘frat-boy culture’ that allowed alleged assaults like a male co-worker forcibly kissing her.

Soon after another former staffer, Richard Markel, 62, filed a lawsuit alleged he was forced out due to age discrimination. WeWork vowed to fight all the allegations.

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WeWork hysteria reached its peak in 2017 when SoftBank invested $4.4billion in the company and Neumann declared its worth was based ‘more on our energy and spirituality’ than revenue.

He mused: ‘We are here in order to change the world – nothing less than that interests me’.

Neumann even talked about being the President of the United States, once joking he could be ‘President of the world’.

The dream came crashing down in 2019 when WeWork filed for its initial public offering which forced it to open up its finances to scrutiny.

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That revealed huge black holes in its balance sheet and the company’s valuation plunged from $47billion to $10billion and the floatation was put on hold indefinitely. 

Neumann was ousted as his culpability for the company’s excesses were revealed, but only after SofBank agreed to buy nearly $1billion in stock from him. 

Experts called his golden parachute ‘stone-cold crazy’ but it showed that even being a $1billion loser, Neumann had cashed out and got rich.

After being ousted from WeWork, Neumann listed his West Chester, New York estate (above) for sale

After being ousted from WeWork, Neumann listed his West Chester, New York estate (above) for sale

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Neumann listed his Gramercy Park duplex (above) in Manhattan for $37million after he was ousted from WeWork

Neumann listed his Gramercy Park duplex (above) in Manhattan for $37million after he was ousted from WeWork

After his flight from WeWork in 2019, Nuemann took some time to swap some of his personal real estate out for fresh digs.

He sold off a Hamptons house for $1.25million, shortly after putting his Manhattan home on the market for $37million.

Later that year he offloaded a 6,000 square foot house that neighbored Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart in West Chester, New York, and in 2021 sold his 11-acre California estate for a whopping $22.4 million.

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After the sale of the California home, Neumann shifted his focus to Miami, snapping up a pair of properties – 50,000 square feet and 360 feet of coastline – for $44million. The parcels were used to build a 14,000 square foot home.

Other properties Neumann now owns include Yard 8 and the 444-unit Caoba apartment tower in Miami, Florida

One of the properties properties Neumann has been snapping up in his plans to 'disrupt the rental property market'

Four of the properties Neumann has snapped up in his new quest to ‘disrupt the rental property market’

Neumann also appears to be setting his sights on going into the real estate business, with reports circling in early 2022 that he has has been buying up majority stakes in more than 4,000 apartments valued at more than $1 billion in cities like Miami, Nashville and Fort Lauderdale, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Friends and associates have said he wants to create a widely-recognizable apartment brand stacked with amenities as he seeks to lure in the same kind of young professionals who took advantage of WeWork’s co-working spaces.

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‘Since the spring of 2020, we have been excited about multifamily apartment living in vibrant cities where a new generation of young people increasingly are choosing to live, the kind of cities that are redefining the future of living,’ said DJ Mauch, a partner in Neumann’s family office. 

‘We’re excited to play a role in that future,’ he said.

Neither Mauch nor Neumann provided any specifics on what would make them better than other landlords who provide high-end amenities and perks at luxury buildings.

Neumann has also invested in a number of startups, such as Alfred Club Inc, a company that provides concierge services such as picking up and dropping off groceries and laundry in residential buildings, sources told the Journal.

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Their plans may b a rehashing of the WeWork days venture WeLive, which was planned as a network of buildings where people could rent rooms in shared, furnished apartments.

The company opened apartment buildings in New York and Virginia, but closed them down after Neumann’s departure in 2019.

Friends and associates have said Neumann wants to create a widely-recognizable apartment brand stacked with amenities as he seeks to lure in the same kind of young professionals who took advantage of WeWork's co-working spaces

Friends and associates have said Neumann wants to create a widely-recognizable apartment brand stacked with amenities as he seeks to lure in the same kind of young professionals who took advantage of WeWork’s co-working spaces

As for FlowCarbon, Neuman’s latest venture, it is currently at the mercy of the misery of the current crypto market.  

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The company is one of several striving to make carbon permits more accessible by attaching it to a cryptocurrency, allowing everyday citizens the means to buy and trade them with its own network and infrastructure.

It comes as recent market turbulence spurred by inflation has seen bitcoin drop below $20,000 from a high of more than $60,000 in November, with other coins falling at a similar rate.

The coins hit lows last month not seen in more than year, with Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency falling to $17,592, and no.2 coin Ethereum dropping to $879 – falling below key resistance markers that indicate investor sentiment.

Other popular coins – which typically follow the movements of the aforementioned coins – also fell at similar speeds.

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The coins have since rebounded slightly, however, rallying over the weekend but still hovering around the symbolic levels – which for Bitcoin is around $20,000 and Ethereum $1,000.

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