Rebekah Neumann's 40th birthday party in Italy was set to rival a celebrity's bash. The celebration included luxury suites for around 40 people and a yacht, perfect for exploring the Amalfi Coast off of Positano, one of the three cities on the itinerary.
But the invite list caused some headaches. Rebekah and her husband Adam, two of WeWork's three founders, have maintained a close relationship with Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. The Neumanns wanted to invite the couple to the big party in Italy.
The Kushners did not attend, and sources offer differing accounts about why. One ex-employee who worked closely with the WeWork executive team said that WeWork's then-head of communications – who did not respond to a request for comment – argued against their inclusion. The comms head was worried about the optics of socializing with Trump administration officials because of WeWork's generally progressive stance on social issues, this person said.
At the last minute, Adam Neumann agreed not to have his friends at the party. But another source familiar with the matter said Ivanka and Jared were invited, but the three-city event was too logistically challenging for the couple's security team.
Regardless of the party, three former employees who worked closely with senior management confirmed that the couples remain close.
A WeWork representative declined to comment, citing the company's quiet period ahead of its IPO. A spokeswoman for the Kushners did not respond to a request for comment.
Love, the Kushners
As WeWork navigates a rocky path to going public, the founders' leadership style has been under a microscope by current and potential investors. The company has more conflicts of interest among leadership than typical public companies, particularly around Adam Neumann's property dealings. WeWork took steps last week to address some of those perceived problems, though now the company is delaying its IPO plans after a chilly response from potential investors.
The Neumanns have used the company to advocate for progressive causes, including environmental issues and the LGBT community, so the former employees said the close ties to the couple, and by extension the White House, seemed hypocritical.
While the fact that the two couples have a relationship is far from secret, most media depictions up until this point had focused on their business ties and real estate negotiations, but not the details of their social connection and how it was perceived within WeWork.
Rebekah was photographed standing behind Ivanka Trump at actor Hugh Jackman's New York home last year. One former staffer said the couples dine occasionally and that the Neumanns have received gifts from the couple at headquarters, including a basket for the Jewish holiday Purim, which the ex-employee said had a note that ended "Love, the Kushners."
'Tequila shots and arm wrestling'
Adam Neumann has not shied away from talking about his business relationship with Kushner – WeWork is a major tenant in an office complex in Dumbo Heights, Brooklyn owned by Kushner's family real estate business, Kushner Companies. In 2014, Kushner told Forbes that he was initially skeptical of WeWork's pitch.
"It took us a little bit to get on the same page. My first impression was they had very big ambition, but I wanted to make sure there was enough substance behind it," Kushner said.
Per earlier reports, Kushner and Adam Neumann have taken tequila shots – Adam's drink of choice – and gone head-to-head in an arm wrestling match to settle a minor disagreement. Kushner lost. But Adam Neumann has called the real estate heir a mentor.
"I find Jared to be one of the most sophisticated real estate developers on earth," he told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016. "A lot of times when I'm with Jared, I take cues from his behavior just to learn how to act. You know, just to act a little bit better myself because it's always good to learn."
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