It’s not every day that we do a timeline of a company’s fall from grace. Granted, we take no joy in such things, but they do help illustrate how fast a company can do a 180 (and not in a good direction).
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WeWork is a fast-growing unicorn that had its eye on the public markets. It was highly valued and landed huge amounts of venture capital from investors before it filed to go public. But its IPO failed spectacularly, with most of the drama unraveling over the course of September. Let’s take a look:
January 9, 2019–Series H
August 14, 2019– S-1 Filing
The We Company, as WeWork is now known, files its S-1 document with the Securities and Exchange Commission in its first step to go public. The filing reveals that the company’s revenue has been growing more than 100 percent each year, but that it’s also burning through cash. It also reveals questionable corporate governance practices (e.g. giving CEO Adam Neumann an unbelievable amount of power with votes, letting the CEO’s wife have a say in who would lead the company should Neumann die, the company paying Neumann nearly $6 million to use his trademarked “We” in its name).
September 5. 2019–Valuation Drops
Bloomberg reported that WeWork was targeting a valuation of between $20 billion and $30 billion for its IPO, much less than its last private valuation of $47 billion. The company was planning on kicking off its IPO roadshow as soon as the following week, Bloomberg reported, and was targeting a share sale of $3.5 billion.
September 9, 2019–Pressure from Softbank
Financial Times reports that Softbank, WeWork’s mega investor, has been pushing the startup to shelve its IPO. WeWork’s corporate governance and viability as a public company has come under scrutiny.
September 13, 2019–Corporate Governance Changes
In a new regulatory filing, WeWork reveals changes to its corporate governance, including reduction of Neumann’s voting power and taking away the stipulation that his wife could have a say in his replacement should he die.
September 17, 2019–Reports of IPO Delay Until October
The Wall Street Journal reported that WeWork would be delaying its IPO until at least October. “The We Company is looking forward to our upcoming IPO, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year,” WeWork said in a statement after the WSJ report came out. “We want to thank all of our employees, members and partners for their ongoing commitment.”
September 24, 2019–Layoff Considerations and CEO Steps Down
The Information reports that WeWork is considering laying off up to 5,000 employees, or a third of its staff, as it looks to save cash. That same day, Neumann steps down as CEO of the company. The exec was heavily criticized shortly before he stepped down for the questionable corporate governance of the company, WeWork’s culture and a report of smoking weed on private planes.
“As co-founder of WeWork, I am so proud of this team and the incredible company that we have built over the last decade … While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction, and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive,” Neumann said in a statement.
September 30, 2019–WeWork Delays IPO Indefinitely
The company announces that it plans to eventually go public but is delaying its IPO indefinitely.
WeWork has “every intention to operate WeWork as a public company and look forward to revisiting the public equity markets in the future,” new co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham said in a statement.
What Does This Mean
And such is life for this former startup superstar. Whether the company can fully clean up this mess, put a failed IPO in the past and successfully debut on the public markets in the future is unclear. But if the future is anything like the recent past, then we won’t be surprised if a timeline update looks grim.
Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias