- Reeves Wiedeman is a business journalist whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and other major publications.
- The following is an excerpt from his new book, “Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork.”
- In it, Wiedeman shares a glimpse into Neumann’s extensive list of accommodations for his VIP campsite at WeWork’s 2018 Summer Camp in London, a retreat where all 6,000 of WeWork’s employees gathered after the company secured a $US1 billion investment from SoftBank.
- Wiedeman vividly chronicles the cofounder’s ambitious vision and aspirations for WeWork, including solving world hunger, rescuing orphans and abused children, and helping minorities.
- “For those attending their first Summer Camp, the crowd had a strange energy, erupting into a cheer of ‘OleÌ, oleÌ, oleÌ’ when the three founders appeared onstage. An employee from India started chanting, ‘Let’s go, WeWork, let’s go!’ Another, from California, screamed, ‘You’re changing the world, Adam!'”
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No one knew that WeWork’s 2018 Summer Camp would be its last, but there was plenty to celebrate: SoftBank had just agreed to invest an additional $US1 billion in the company. WeWork flew its six thousand employees to London, hired Lorde to perform, and had to quickly find replacement food trucks to meet the company’s new dietary restrictions.
Employee accommodations remained humble â€” air mattresses in tents â€” but a pair of campsites was set aside for the company’s founders, with only those holding a VIP wristband allowed to access them. WeWork’s event team had a one-page list of requests for Miguel’s campsite: a fire pit, some Popchips, and enough beer, wine, and coconut water to last the long weekend.
Adam and Rebekah had a longer list. The Neumanns had flown to Summer Camp on WeWork’s brand-new Gulfstream jet, which the company had purchased for more than $US60 million at Adam’s behest under an LLC called Wildgoose I. Adam and Rebekah’s list of items to be stocked in their Summer Camp compound went on for three and a half pages.
Accommodation & Compound
- Standard Tent House Suite via Raj Style
- A/C (3 aircon units)
- 1 king bed (+ mattress pad)
- 4 twin beds (2 in each of 2 rooms)
- 1 crib
- 1 high chair
- Towels, blankets, citronella candles
- 4 Vienna Two Seater + chairs (for 12)
- 8 Picnic tables for 40 people
- 1 Stockholm large coffee table
- 2 fridges
- 2 fire bowls
- 1 Woodsman’s awning
- 3 buggies (two for our office team, 1 set aside for family) â€” dinosaur themed
- 1 buggy for WW security team
- 1 Shuttle bus to bring wristband guests to and from the main arena
- Signature Range Rover for Rebekah/Adam use
- Mercedes V Class
- 24/7 security guard
- 2 24/7 drivers
- 2 dedicated bartenders
- 4 cocktail shakers
- At least 400 plastic shot glasses â€” bring extra from the office
- Plastic cups
- Thick paper plates
- Wooden utensils
- Paper towels
- Straws (sealed in paper)
- 6 wine keys
- 6 bottle openers
- 4 Aesop Geranium Hand Soap
- 4 Aesop Gardenia Shower Gel
- 4 Aesop Gardenia Shampoo
- 4 Aesop Gardenia Conditioner
- Sliced red peppers x 6
- Cucumbers x 6
- Platter of fresh sliced fruit (two per day)
- Cashews x 3
- Pistachios x 3
- Almonds x 3
- Walnuts x 3
- SkinnyPop popcorn (12 packs)
- Lemons x 10
- Limes x 30
- LaCroix Lime 6 packs x 4
- Hot Water â€” or the ability to get boiling water â€” ideally having an electric tea kettle setup
- Dairy-free Oatmeal packets
- Dates x 3
- Sugar Free Red Bull 12 pack x 3
- Regular Red Bull 12 pack x 3
- Ginger root
- Chocolate bars
- Edamame packets
- Kind Bars
- Guacamole singles
- Peanut butter squeeze packets
- Mother’s Milk
- Filtered Water
- Fresh squeezed orange juice
- Oat milk or soy milk
- Wasa Multigrain
- Wasa Crisp ‘n Light
- Wasa Light Rye cracker x 4
- Sliced green apples
- Organic fresh-pressed peanut butter
- Mixed berry jelly
- Crudite platters (whatever veggies are fresh)
- Heirloom tomatoes
- Fresh basil
- Fresh mozzarella
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vegetarian sushi rolls
- Salt and pepper (in the grinders)
- Health Warrior Pumpkin seed bar packages x 3
- Enlightened Broad Beans (snack pack size) x 6
- RX Bars variety pack x 3
The rider ended with a list of alcohol requests that could have covered most of an entry-level WeWork salary, beginning with two bottles of Highland Park 30-year-old single-malt Scotch â€” retailing at $US1,000 each â€” and concluding with a request from Rebekah for the ingredients necessary to make Bellinis, mimosas, and white wine sangria.
- Highland Park 30 yrs x 2
- 17 year Hibiki x 1
- 3 Hibiki Harmony
- 18 year Macallan x 4
- Stoli Elit / Tito’s x 24
- 12 cases of Don Julio 1942
- 16 bottles Kosher red wine (Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003)
- 8 bottles Kosher red wine (Petit Castel 2014)
- 24 bottles Kosher white wine (ChaÌ’teau Clos Haut-Peyraguey Sauternes 2014)
- 72 bottles of Peroni
- 72 bottles of Heineken
- 72 bottles of Corona Light
One afternoon at camp, WeWork’s employees were herded toward the Creator Stage, coaxed along by a small marching band playing the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” on an endless loop. Adam, Miguel, and Rebekah were scheduled to host a panel; the vegetarian food trucks were told to hold off on serving meals, leaving their employees to fend off desperate bribes from drunk and hungry WeWorkers.
For those attending their first Summer Camp, the crowd had a strange energy, erupting into a cheer of “OleÌ, oleÌ, oleÌ” when the three founders appeared onstage. An employee from India started chanting, “Let’s go, WeWork, let’s go!” Another, from California, screamed, “You’re changing the world, Adam!”
Neumann had certainly come to believe in his ability to do just that.
“The influence and impact that we are going to have on this earth is going to be so big,” he said, wearing a T-shirt that read let’s meat in the middle.
A few weeks earlier, after the shocking news that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had died by suicide, Adam had stood up at a company town hall and told his employees that if they were ever feeling depressed or suicidal they should reach out to him directly. At Summer Camp, he relayed what he described as good news: One of his employees had done just that, and was in the crowd today, doing fine.
As he had on other occasions, Adam shared some of the difficulties of his childhood, and he and Rebekah expressed a desire to solve the problems plaguing children in even less fortunate situations. “One of my biggest dreams for We,” Rebekah told the crowd, “is that we’ll be able to build communities around the world where children who are not in the right situation could come and live forever, basically.”
Adam jumped in. “There are 150 million orphans in this world today,” he said. “If we do the work right, we could wake up one day and say, ‘We want to solve the problem of children without parents in this world’ â€” and do it, within two years.”
“And children who are in abusive situations,” Rebekah said.
Adam agreed. “Then we can go to any minority, and anyone who is weaker, who is getting taken advantage of by someone who is more powerful,” he said. “And from that we can go to world hunger. There’s so many topics that we can take one by one, and we will be able to tackle anything that we set our minds to.”
Rebekah went on to express her gratitude to Adi Neumann, who was in the crowd, for funding Adam’s early life back in New York. “You helped him create the biggest family in the world,” Rebekah said. “A big part of being a woman is to help men manifest their calling in life.”
From the book “Billion Dollar Loser” by Reeves Wiedeman. Copyright Â© 2020 by Reeves Wiedeman. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Reeves Wiedeman is a contributing editor at New York magazine, and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, Men’s Journal, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn but still calls Kansas City home.