There has been so much press coverage about the spectacular rise and fall of the We Work business that you know any film hoping to make sense of its 11-year existence will be a horror story of some sort. Especially for the several thousand employees who lost their jobs because of the mismanagement of We Work’s megalomanic owner. At the peak of the company’s short existence, CEO/owner Adam Neumann had been spending $100 million a week to attract a multibillion-dollar investment that would never ever come.
On paper Neumann’s concept of creating very contemporary shared workspaces made great sense. As the whole internet explosion had drastically changed the way we worked, and the whole new culture of start-ups with a more independent workforce, demanded we re-think where we worked too.
Israeli Neumann who had worked his way around the globe before he settled in the US relied on the youthful confidence he exuded and his undeniable ability as a fast-talking salesman to talk his initial backers/investors/partners into the whole concept of We Work. Having grown up on a Kibbutz, Neumann was a great believer in the concept of community living which he thought he could easily introduce into the business world.
With the help of his very spiritual wife Rebekah, officially not an employee of We Work, Neumann created a cult-like atmosphere where attendance at the Company campout/wild parties was obligatory. Always conscious of both the image of We Work and himself, Neumann unhesitantly made so many bad decisions like overpaying for new properties because they were situated in the most fashionable locations.
Director Jed Rothstein’s film is more entertaining than exposing as he not only gives Neumann an easy ride, he leaves enormous gaps in the story. Even now we really still have no exact idea of how the Company could go a $47 billion valuation to near bankruptcy in just six weeks.
Then if we are not angry enough with the story. we learn that even with We Work on the verge of bankruptcy, Neumann actually gets a payout in excess of $100 million to step down as CEO. The sadder part is that we know this is not exceptional as right now UK businessman Philip Green was given a similar amount for his very dubious business practices that brought a very successful massive retail empire to its knees.
Neumann’s story exposes the reality of how the sheer greed of bad/crooked businessmen can still run amok ruining everyone’s lives except their own. It would be wonderful (although highly unlikely) that we actually remembered these lessons in the future.