Adam Neumann might act like a messiah but WeWork's nosedive proves he can't walk on water

The CEO was adamant that his brand was a tech disruptor, when in fact it was just a traditional property play, and a not-very-good, easily replicated one at that, writes Chris Blackhurst

Friday 04 October 2019 19:02
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The co-founder and CEO was ousted from the company last month
The co-founder and CEO was ousted from the company last month

Four years ago, I met Adam Neumann, the founder of WeWork, the shared workspace company. He, at that time, did not just talk big, he talked huge. As well he might. Since its launch in 2010, WeWork had opened sellout sites in New York and London, and was expanding at a ferocious speed. Already, back then it was being spoken of as a $10bn (£8bn) corporation.

Neumann, tall with jet black, wavy hair and a pumped-up physique, cut a charismatic figure – he was deliberately messianic in image and the way he talked. At 36, he wasn’t just providing his clients with desks, where they could plot their own tech and creative ideas, he was speaking about transforming the entire global office culture, offering a whole new work-life balance. Said Neumann: “We treat [tenants] the way we want to be treated ourselves. For us and them, working is about much more than achieving material goods.”

They were not any old punters as such, but members. They had to apply to join, and they were vetted. “No call centres, we don’t want people who will just man phones and sell.”

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