Miguel McKelvey and the Tel Aviv-born Neumann founded WeWork in 2010, along with Neumann’s wife, Rebekah Paltrow. The company grew out of Green Desk, a coworking business Adam Neumann helped launch two years before—and it grew quickly after that 2010 launch. In 2018, for instance, WeWork surpassed JPMorgan Chase to become the largest private occupier of office space in Manhattan with 5.3 million square feet leased.
Its model of offering not only flexible leases and lease terms but a suite of millennial-friendly amenities (free beer and coffee included in memberships) inspired several imitators throughout the decade, including Knotel and Convene. SoftBank would invest billions in WeWork, pumping its valuation to $47 billion, making Neumann’s creation the world’s most valuable startup. Meanwhile, WeWork’s parent, the We Company, expanded into other avenues, including in coliving, education and proptech.
By 2019, WeWork was ready to go public, and that’s when things began to unravel for the unicorn and its charismatic, seemingly omnipresent co-founder. Analysts and journalists picked apart WeWork’s model, which turned out to have almost as much money going out as it had coming in. Neumann’s management style, too, came in for withering scrutiny.
A lengthy Wall Street Journal profile in September 2019 depicted the 40 year old as at times drug-addled and at other times as indifferent, including amid large-scale layoffs at WeWork and confusion about the company’s ultimate objectives. He resigned shortly after the profile appeared and parachuted from the company with hundreds of millions of dollars in stock (though not the $1 billion he had hoped for).