WeCrashed: What is fact and what is fiction in new Apple TV series?

The show about WeWork founder Adam Neumann and wife Rebekah Paltrow seems larger-than-life. How much of it is true?

Kevin E G Perry
Friday 18 March 2022 06:50
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WeCrashed trailer

WeCrashed, which arrived on Apple TV on 18 March, tells the story of the dramatic rise and fall of co-working company WeWork. It’s a wild saga full of scandal and intrigue – but how much of it really happened?

The eight-part series stars Oscar winners Jared Leto as WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann and Anne Hathaway as his wife Rebekah Neumann, née Paltrow, a first cousin of A-list actor and Goop boss Gwyneth. The show follows the couple from their first meeting and the launch of WeWork in 2010 to the moment in 2019 when Neumann was forced by investors to resign his post as CEO.

It’s a tale full of outlandish twists and turns, so here’s a breakdown of what’s fact and what’s fiction in the new series. Some spoilers follow…

Adam Neumann

In episode one of WeCrashed, we see several of “serial entrepreneur” Neumann’s pre-WeWork ventures. These include a company called Krawlers, which manufactured baby onesies with built in kneepads; another company that sold women’s shoes with collapsible heels; and his first co-working real estate venture with architect and eventual WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey, which was named Green Desk. All of these were real companies that Adam Neumann launched. As seen in the show, the first two flopped while Neumann and McKelvey sold Green Desk and used the money to help start WeWork.

During a yoga class in episode one, Neumann wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the insignia of the Israeli Navy. This is a reference to the fact that the real-life Neumann graduated from the Israeli Naval Academy and went on to serve as an officer in the Israeli Navy for five years, rising to the rank of captain. It’s true that, as mentioned in WeCrashed, Neumann is dyslexic. He could not read or write before he was eight years old. Likewise, Neumann’s upbringing on a kibbutz is based in reality: In 1990, his family settled at the Nir Am kibbutz near Sderot in southern Israel.

Adam Neumann and Jared Leto playing him

Neumann is frequently shown smoking cannabis throughout WeCrashed. Neumann’s cannabis use is a matter of public record. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Neumann had chartered a Gulfstream G650 for a flight from the United States to Israel the previous year. After the flight the crew found a cereal box stuffed with cannabis, presumably for the return flight, and reported it to the jet owner who ordered the plane to return to the US. Neumann and his friends had to make their own way home.

Episode two opens with Adam and Rebekah Neumann’s wedding on 9 October 2008. That date is accurate, as is the fact that Rebekah’s father Bob gave his daughter a $1m wedding gift which the couple later invested in WeWork.

Later in the series, Adam Neumann causes a PR storm when the embattled CEO is photographed walking barefoot around the streets of Manhattan. This really happened, and the pictures were widely shared on Twitter and Reddit .

Rebekah Neumann

It’s mentioned several times throughout WeCrashed that Rebekah Neumann is Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cousin. This is true. She grew up as Rebekah Paltrow, and her father Bob Paltrow is the brother of Gwyneth’s late father Bruce. This also makes Rebekah the niece of Meet The Parents actor Blythe Danner.

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In episode one, Adam and Rebekah Neumann meet at a party on the roof of Adam’s apartment building. This is a slightly revised version of reality: in truth, they were introduced by one of Rebekah’s college friends. It was that friend who met Adam on the roof of his building.

Leto and Hathawy in ‘WeCrashed’

In several early episodes we see Rebekah Neumann’s attempts to follow Paltrow and Danner into the family business. It’s true that Neumann was an aspiring actor: her IMDb page lists four acting credits, playing an uncredited role as a UN Diplomat in 2010’s Fair Game, “Sam” in 2010’s Nomads, which starred Lucy Liu, and two short film roles in 2010’s Awake and 2012’s Aunt Louisa. The most notable of these is Awake, which Rebekah Neumann wrote, produced and starred in (alongside Rosario Dawson) out of WeWork’s offices.

In episode three, Rebekah Neumann becomes involved in a controversy sparked by her public comments that “a big part of being a woman is to help men manifest their calling in life”. This really happened. In 2018, a PropertyWeek correspondent attending the annual three-day WeWork Summer Camp reported that Rebekah Neumann tearfully thanked her husband’s sister Adi for helping to pay his rent when he first moved to the US from Israel. “I’m so grateful you took care of Adam,” she said. “You helped him create the biggest family in the world. A big part of being a woman is to help men [like Adam] manifest their calling in life.” At the time her comments sparked disapproving coverage in outlets like Stylist.

In the same episode we learn that Rebekah Neumann’s father has become embroiled in legal trouble. Although the timeline has been condensed, this is again based in fact: Bob Paltrow pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion in 2014 and was subsequently sentenced to six months in prison.

Miguel McKelvey

Miguel McKelvey, played by The Climb’s Kyle Marvin, was WeWork’s real-life co-founder. In WeCrashed, McKelvey first meets Adam Neumann at a business class focused on entrepreneurship. In reality, the pair met at a party when they both worked in the same office building.

It is true that like Neumann, McKelvey was already an entrepreneur by the time they met. While visiting Tokyo after graduating from college, he co-founded English, baby!, a social network for students learning languages online.

As mentioned in the show it’s also true that before meeting Neumann and founding WeWork, McKelvey worked for Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture. The firm was responsible for all American Apparel design projects, and McKelvey managed their international retail roll out.

WeWork Summer Camp

The third episode of WeCrashed focuses on a WeWork Summer Camp at Lake Raquette in upstate New York, which Adam Neumann arrives at by helicopter while wearing a ‘Summer of We’ T-Shirt. At the event, Neumann is in full messianic mode, often leading the audience of his staff by chanting “We!” as they respond: “Work!”

This is a condensed version based on several different Summer Camps, which were being held on an annual basis. There were Summer Camps held at Lake Raquette between 2012 and 2016. It was the 2014 edition that was covered by TheNew York Times’s style section, as portrayed in the show.

It wasn’t until 2018 that Rebekah Paltrow made her controversial comments about a women’s role being to “help men manifest their calling in life”, and that actually happened at a WeWork Summer Camp held in a field outside of Tunbridge Wells, Kent. That year’s event was headlined by major musical artists: Bastille on Friday and Lorde on Saturday.

Cameron Lautner

Played by The Handmaid’s Tale’s OT Fagbenle, Cameron Lautner is portrayed as a partner at a powerful investment firm who is tasked with trying to instill discipline at WeWork. His character is a composite: in reality, Neumann was succeeded as WeWork CEO by real estate executive Sandeep Mathrani.

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