WeWork co-founder dropped from Forbes billionaire list

SAN FRANCISCO • Forbes on Thursday lopped more than US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion) from its estimate of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann's net worth, as the company faced scepticism about its future.

Earlier this year, Mr Neumann was listed by Forbes as being among the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of US$4.1 billion. Forbes revised that figure to US$600 million - by no means paltry but a big, quick plunge in wealth.

Mr Neumann, whose unconventional approach to business and governance pushed boundaries on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, announced last month that he was stepping down as chief executive.

He exits the corner office as the company tries to reposition an initial public offering (IPO) campaign that has sputtered.

Mr Neumann, who will stay on as chairman, has faced questions over his perceived self-dealing, as well as the ability of his fast-growing company to become profitable.

His audacious approach to business won support from key investors, including the Japanese group SoftBank.

But his loose approach to corporate governance and conflicts of interest garnered scrutiny, as did a Wall Street Journal expose detailing drug and alcohol use and Mr Neumann's aspirations to become the world's first trillionaire.

  • US$3b

  • Approximate amount Forbes deducted from its estimate of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann's net worth - now an estimated US$600 million.

Known for his long hair and a wardrobe that favours T-shirts, Mr Neumann, 40, is also recognised as a serial entrepreneur. The New York-based start-up that he launched in 2010 has touted itself as revolutionising commercial real estate by offering shared, flexible workspace arrangements, and has operations in 111 cities in 29 countries.

However, the company, which lost US$1.9 billion last year, has faced scepticism over its ability to make money, especially if the global economy slows significantly.

Architects of its plan for a stock market debut had scaled back the valuation target for the company from US$47 billion to under US$20 billion as they pushed back the timeframe. The IPO is now unlikely to happen before the end of the year, according to a source, adding that it could occur next year at the earliest.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2019, with the headline 'WeWork co-founder dropped from Forbes billionaire list'. Print Edition | Subscribe