WeWork co-founder could make millions more from future float

Restructuring in October lowered the bar at which Mr Neumann would gain from post-IPO share price rises

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann stepped down as the company’s chief executive in September. AP
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WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, who stepped down as the company's chief executive in September with an exit package of $1.6 billion (Dh5.9bn), could earn millions of dollars more if the company ever floats on the stock market, reported the Financial Times.

Under the restructure deal agreed with its main backer SoftBank in October, Mr Neumann accepted a much lower valuation for his stake than when the company was seeking for a flotation. He also renegotiated terms on a class of shares he held known as "profits interests" earning a larger payout if the company's price appreciates following a future float.

Mr Neumann agreed with WeWork and SoftBank to forfeit some of his profits interests, while receiving improved terms for his remaining stake.

"A future flotation – even at a valuation significantly lower than the company was seeking this summer – could result in Mr Neumann receiving hundreds of millions of dollars if he sells the stake," the FT report said.

The newspaper said documents showed Mr Neumann’s profit interests convert into stock at a value equal to the price of the public shares minus a designated “catch-up price”, meaning they are financially similar to share options.

Following the restructure, Mr Neumann's catch-up price was slashed to either $19.19 or $21.05 a share from $38.36, according to the documents reviewed by the FT. The restructure valued WeWork at $19.19 a share, or $8bn in total, so if shares later hit $25 per share on public markets, giving the company a value of $10bn, Mr Neumann's profits interest would convert into shares worth about $111 million.

If WeWork's valuation were to reach $15bn, or $35 per share, Mr Neumann would receive shares worth $352m and at $18bn, or $45, the value of its profits interests would rise to $593m.

However, going public will not be easy for the troubled company. One of the hurdles to a future float would be investors’ concern about plummeting losses.

The company, which has lost more than $5bn since 2016, had accrued $49.9bn of lease commitments to landlords by the end of September.

Founded in 2010, WeWork offers membership of shared office spaces that range in value depending on requirements and location. For instance, a desk in Mumbai can be rented for $150, but would cost at least $400 in London.

The company was seeking a valuation of up to $47bn earlier this year, but as it moved closer to a proposed initial public offering in September, investor concerns about its finances and corporate governance practices led to the plug being pulled on its listing, Mr Neumann resigning as chief executive, as well as the restructure.

Last month, the company said it was laying off about 2,400 employees, almost 20 per cent of its workforce, as it sought to drastically cut costs.

The shared office space market is picking up globally. Almost 1,688 new co-working spaces will be opened worldwide in 2019, a little under half in the US, found a report by Cow-orking Resources. While that is 500 fewer than last year, the number of co-working spaces is set to grow more than 40 per cent in the next three years to reach 25,968 globally, it said.

WeWork plans to open its first UAE facility at Hub71 in Abu Dhabi Global Market in January, Mahmoud Adi, chief executive of Hub 71 told The National in October. The company is also planning to open an office in Dubai and began advertising for staff in August.