Ask anyone who has worked closely with ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and you will likely hear stories about him walking around barefoot.
He walks barefoot in the office, people close to him tell us. He walks barefoot around the Hamptons, where he owns a home, people who have seen him there tell us. And he also walks barefoot around the streets of New York, according to a photo of him posted on Reddit.
The photo was posted a day after Neumann resigned as CEO. And although the person who posted it said it was taken right before that news broke, we were unable to determine when it was taken. A person close to him tells us Neumann was wearing different clothing on the day he stepped down.
When Business Insider talked to dozens of former employees about what it was like to work at WeWork under Neumann's tenure, we heard three types of stories repeatedly: seeing him barefoot, his love for an expensive brand of tequila, and his outbursts.
Neumann was seen as the fiery, inspirational visionary, current and former employees told us. Multiple employees who worked closely with him, some from the early days, said his ability to motivate employees and "pitch the living hell out of the company," was his superpower.
They described him as quick to celebrate with shots of his beloved $140/bottle Don Julio 1942 tequila. But he could grow "furious" if shot glasses weren't handily available, one former employee us.
Another former employee remembered two demands every time Neumann visited a WeWork location: cases of Don Julio 1942 – "if you don't have that, he will lose his sh*t" – and music blasting at party volumes. "Our paying customers would be complaining about how loud the music was, but if we turned it down, we'd get screamed and yelled at by Adam and his team."
This person also remembers, "He would run around the office barefoot. He would jump on his desk, or jump on the conference table barefoot and yell at people."
Not all of that yelling was negative. Some of it was exuberance.
A third former employee described working with Adam like this: "A lot of WeWork feels like a never-ending party. It's always up or down, and Adam's screaming both ways, happy or not."
This has been a tumultuous few weeks for Neumann since the company released its pre-IPO filing. Intense public scrutiny ensued over the company's business model and governance. And last week, WeWork announced that Neumann had given up most of his voting power and resigned as CEO, staying on as non-executive chairman.
Neumann said the focus on him had become "a distraction" for the company. A statement given to Business Insider by Neumann's representative in response to our investigation into WeWork's culture and leadership said: "while there may have been some growing pains, the results speak for themselves: a nurturing work environment that is inspiring, respectful, and attuned to bringing out the best in people."
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