After losing billions on WeWork investments, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son says he still loves and respects ousted founder Adam Neumann

Alessandro Di Ciommo/Getty Images, Michael Kovac/Getty Images, Business InsiderSoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, left, and WeWork CEO Adam Neumann.

Investing giant SoftBank reportedly invested more than $US18 billion into coworking startup WeWork, which SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has since called a “foolish” decision. WeWork went from a massive $US47 billion valuation in 2019 to a failed IPO, along with ousting its founder and CEO Adam Neumann — but Son still has positive things to say about Neumann.

At The New York Times DealBook conference, moderator Andrew Sorkin asked Son about what lessons could be learned from WeWork. Son said that Neumann is “a smart guy” who knows he’s made mistakes. He believes Neumann is telling himself that right now. “I think he’s a smart guy, an aggressive guy” who has capability as a great leader, Son said. “Any human makes some mistakes.”

Of SoftBank’s role in raising WeWork’s profile, “I’m part of the responsibility for his mistake” Son said. “I still love him…I still respect him,” he said of Neumann. Son said that he believes Neumann will go on to do “great stuff” in the rest of his life. “Someday he will be very successful, he will say he learned a lot.”

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WeWork was heavily criticised after the failed IPO. SEC filings in 2019 showed that Neumann owned several buildings leased by WeWork, and SoftBank loaned him $US7 million in 2016. He also cashed out $US700 million in stock options ahead of the planned IPO, an unusual move among founders. In October SoftBank took over WeWork, giving Neumann a “golden parachute” to step down.

In early 2020, Neumann sued SoftBank, claiming the company backed out of an agree to buy nearly $US1 billion of his WeWork shares, with trials set for 2021. Two separate suits from Neumann name Son.

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