Embattled WeWork founder Adam Neumann has been eating humble pie as his company's IPO plans have been heavily ridiculed — and are now on pause.
Those close to him tell Business Insider he's feeling the pressure, even as WeWork reportedly mulled going public at a valuation as low as $10 billion, down from its last $47 billion private valuation. And that was before The We Company, WeWork's parent, said this week that it would postpone its IPO from its expected launch this month.
While Neumann scrambled to unwind some of The We Company's most egregious governance issues in a move to appease would-be investors, some say that these are mere token gestures. Famed NYU professor and tech pundit Scott Galloway, for instance, has called these governance concessions "botox on a lame unicorn," that took the company from "stage 4 cancer" to "stage 3.8".
A story by Gabriel Debenedetti in New York Magazine's Intelligencer reveals how big Adam Neumann dreams and thinks, and how hard it may be for him to humble himself at all.
Debenedetti reports that the Israeli-born Neumann recently talked to a political pro about what it would take for someone not born in the US to run for president. The pro explained this would require changing the United States Constitution — deemed an unrealistic goal. The person suggested he think about running for mayor of WeWork's hometown of New York City, or even governor of New York State, to which he quipped, according to the unnamed source: "Once you've reached my level of success, only president will do."
Another person close to Neumann denies he said that, and characterized the whole conversation as just a joke. A spokesperson for We declined to comment.
There's reason to believe that he was never serious about trying to change the Constitution so he could become president. Neumann hasn't been known to be heavily involved with politics so far. However, others have heard him dream about becoming Israel's prime minister, the Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown reports.
Then again, he's also quipped that if he ever were to run for anything, it would be president of the world, Brown reports. Still others say his personal goal has nothing to do with politics: it is to become the world's first trillionaire.
Whether he's dreaming of political power or not, there's plenty of evidence that Neumann thinks so big, he's often over the top.
For instance, his company paid him $5.9 million for the trademark to the name "We" itself. He's since given the money back after the deal was widely criticized. He also sold and borrowed money against his WeWork stock, bought commercial buildings and then leased those building back to his own company, WeWork, pocketing millions of dollars of We's money. Criticism of his real estate deals has led to a promise to pay back his related profits.
Meanwhile, he controls for perpetuity nearly all of the supervoting shares of stock issued by his company, even the stock that is owned by other people. Those supervoting rights included 20 votes per share — outrageous even by Silicon Valley standards, where 10 votes per super-share is the standard. He agreed to roll back the voting rights to 10 votes per share, which still leaves him with voting control over the company.
Yet, given how poorly received the planned IPO was Neumann may have to humble himself far more seriously to get it back on track.