Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann opens up about his regret

“I’ve had a lot of time to think, and there have been multiple lessons and multiple regrets,” Neumann said, speaking publicly for the first time in two years, at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Tuesday.

Under Neumann’s leadership, WeWork raised billions of dollars, expanded its coworking operations to hundreds of cities around the world, and was valued at $ 47 billion during an investment round, a valuation that recognized that it was ” went to the head. ” But also under Neumann, the company failed spectacularly in its attempt to go public in large part because its IPO paperwork revealed its uncontrolled power and numerous potential conflicts of interest, as well as staggering losses. Last month, WeWork went public on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of about $ 9 billion. Despite being ousted, Neumann eventually walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars.
WeWork wasn’t just about selling coworking spaces; pointed to sell a new way of life. Neumann vision It included convivial apartments with lively common areas so you never feel alone, schools that promised to teach kids entrepreneurial superpowers, a WeBank, and an airline.
Neumann was finally ousted in 2019 due to pressure from investors. Soon after, WeWork stopped its plans to go public and then laid off thousands of employees. In Tuesday’s interview, Neumann expressed regret for workers who lost their jobs and saw the value of their shares in the company collapse. He He also addressed criticism he received for the way he ran the company, including allegations of drug use and overspending.

“We had a fun culture, but first let’s start with the fact that we built a global brand and in over 110 cities in over 40 countries,” he said. “We became a household name. So that culture had a lot of things that worked really well … But there also comes a time where you go from that to the next stage. I think that could have happened before.”

Neumann said the $ 47 billion valuation was partially to blame for exacerbating his management style. As more high-profile investors joined in and valuation rose, “it made me feel like the style I was leading was the right one at the time,” he said. “Sometime [it went to my head]. I think the moment you lose focus on really the core of your business and why this business was what it was meant to be. ”

The disgraced founder also recalled a 90-minute meeting with Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook about two and a half years ago. “In that meeting with one of the greatest CEOs on the planet … I talked a lot, instead of listening,” he said. “I had the opportunity to sit in front of a great person like that and learn, and he was busy talking again.”

Cook had appeared via video chat during the DealBook conference about an hour before Neumann. “In fact, I was hoping he was here today,” Neumann said. “I was going to apologize to him and tell him that if I ever get a chance to speak to him again, I will listen to him. I apologize for being an idiot back then.”

Neumann, who reportedly He sold more than $ 700 million worth of stock to start his own family office, said he is particularly interested in investing in crypto companies right now. He added that despite tumultuous years, he remains open to learning.

“I am not the same,” he said. “There was a time when we thought [the money] everything was gone. [My wife] Rebecca looked me in the eye and said, ‘We’re fine.’ If you can have your loved ones, your family, and your friends, things will work out well in the future. Take it as a lesson. Enjoy the trip and stay present. “

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