Adam Neumann Gives Up on Buying Back WeWork

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Adam Neumann has officially admitted defeat in his quest to buy back WeWork, ending his bid to acquire the co-working company that he helped found in 2010 and built into a global enterprise valued at $47 billion before it fell into bankruptcy last year.

“For several months, we tried to work constructively with WeWork to create a strategy that would allow it to thrive,” Mr. Neumann said in a statement to the DealBook newsletter. “Instead, the company looks to be emerging from bankruptcy with a plan that appears unrealistic and unlikely to succeed.”

The writing was on the wall for weeks. Mr. Neumann stepped down as WeWork’s chief executive in 2019 under pressure from directors and investors, after the company failed to go public amid questions about its business model and corporate governance. It marked a stunning fall for Mr. Neumann, the company’s charismatic frontman.

But in February, DealBook reported that Mr. Neumann was planning an audacious move to buy back the company.

His new real estate company, Flow, which is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm, offered more than $500 million. The plan was to buy WeWork or its assets, and inject bankruptcy financing to keep it afloat.

But WeWork found a different lifeline. A U.S. bankruptcy judge last month approved a restructuring deal that essentially wiped out $4 billion in company debt. It also included $450 million in new funding from SoftBank, the Japanese technology investor that has backed WeWork from its early days, enabling it to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

WeWork has been busy renegotiating leases in an effort to shed $11 billion in rent obligations. The rise of hybrid work since the coronavirus pandemic has hit the commercial real estate sector hard. A surge in vacancies has helped companies like WeWork rework deals with landlords, but has also cast doubts over the growth potential of the shared-office business model.