- SoftBank on Tuesday night announced a deal to take over WeWork.
- The rescue plan, which comes weeks before WeWork was set to run out of money, includes a capital infusion and stock buyback from the Japanese investor.
- Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s chief operating officer, will become executive chairman of WeWork’s board. Three sources told Business Insider that Claure would address the company at an all-staff meeting on Wednesday morning.
- For more WeWork stories, click here.
SoftBank on Tuesday formally announced a plan to rescue WeWork.
The deal ends a tumultuous 10 weeks for the office-rental company – which filed in mid-August for an initial public offering that was ultimately shelved – and for its largest investor.
The plan sees SoftBank invest $US5 billion in new financing, buy back up to $US3 billion of stock, and accelerate a planned $US1.5 billion investment. The Japanese investor will own about 80% of WeWork after the deal closes. Because SoftBank won’t hold a majority of voting rights, WeWork will be a SoftBank associate instead of a subsidiary.
“It is not unusual for the world’s leading technology disruptors to experience growth challenges as the one WeWork just faced,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in the Tuesday statement. “Since the vision remains unchanged, SoftBank has decided to double down on the company by providing a significant capital infusion and operational support.”
Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s chief operating officer, will take the cofounder Adam Neumann’s position as chairman, and the board will add more members. Neumann will become a board observer, which means he won’t have voting rights.
Three sources told Business Insider that Claure would address WeWork staff at an all-company meeting on Wednesday morning. Earlier Tuesday, employees told Business Insider they were outraged about SoftBank’s deal and the lack of communication about their jobs after headlines about major layoffs.
“The funding provides WeWork with significant liquidity to execute its business plan to accelerate the Company’s path to profitability and positive free cash flow,” the company said in the Tuesday statement, which did not mention job cuts.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the day that SoftBank would provide Neumann with almost $US1.7 billion. SoftBank’s Tuesday statement did not specify details on his exit package. The Journal reported that Neumann would have the option to sell nearly $US1 billion of stock to SoftBank, step down as board chairman, and receive a $US185 million consulting fee as well as a $US500 million credit line, The Journal said.
A representative for Neumann did not respond to request for comment. A representative for SoftBank declined to comment beyond Tuesday’s statement.
WeWork earlier this year was in talks to borrow $US6 billion from banks, a deal contingent on raising at least $US3 billion in a public float. But after the company released its initial-public-offering filing in mid-August, investors, analysts, and the media highlighted problems with its business model, conflicts of interest, and leadership. Six weeks later, WeWork’s board of directors ousted the controversial Neumann as CEO and replaced him with two co-CEOs, who shelved the IPO indefinitely.
Co-CEOs’ first weeks in office
After taking the co-CEO role on September 24, Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham immediately turned their attention to rescuing WeWork. They looked to sell some of WeWork’s acquisitions and the company’s corporate jet; lay off up to a quarter of the company’s workforce; wind down noncore businesses like WeGrow, its educational arm; remove members of Neumann’s inner circle; and line up billions in funding.
WeWork’s seven-member board tapped the directors Bruce Dunlevie and Lew Frankfort to form a two-man committee to evaluate the plans from SoftBank and JPMorgan, Reuters reported. Dunlevie is a general partner at the WeWork investor Benchmark Capital, while Frankfort was the CEO of the handbag company Coach.
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