Adam Neumann WeWork bid faces questions over financing, business plan

Israeli-American businessman Adam Neumann speaks during The Israeli American Council (IAC) 8th Annual National Summit on January 19, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

Shahar Azran | Getty Images

Adam Neumann has sent a preliminary offer to buy WeWork out of bankruptcy for more than $500 million, five years after he was ousted by the office-sharing company he founded. But it’s not clear that he has the financing and requisite support from creditors to consummate a deal.

In trying to reclaim WeWork, Neumann has to contend with a checkered past at the company, uncertainty over funding and the difficulty in valuing a business that’s midway through a restructuring process. CNBC spoke with multiple people familiar with the company and Neumann’s offer. They requested anonymity to speak freely about private matters.

Investment firm Rithm Capital, which acquired Daniel Och’s Sculptor Capital Management in November, is one of parties interested in financing the bid, sources told CNBC. Rithm’s involvement remains preliminary and the diligence process is at an extremely early stage, one of the people said.

More broadly, people close to the matter say they’re skeptical of whether Neumann has committed financing lined up to support an offer. That’s because Neumann has previously named other financing sources in prior communications with WeWork’s advisors that hasn’t come to fruition, the sources say.

For example, Dan Loeb’s Third Point was previously cited in a letter by Neumann’s counsel to WeWork’s bankruptcy advisors as a firm that was providing financing. But the hedge fund quickly denied involvement and said discussions had only been preliminary. Third Point is not involved in any offer, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Baupost Group was also floated as a potential financing source months earlier but didn’t join Neumann’s latest bid, the people said. Conversations between Neumann and Baupost were preliminary and informal, one source said. The Financial Times first reported that Baupost was not involved.

WeWork declined to comment for this story. In a previous statement, the company said it received “expressions of interest from third parties on a regular basis,” and that it worked to “always act in the best long-term interests of the company.”

Neumann didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blurred lines

Neumann is represented by law firm Quinn Emanuel’s Alex Spiro, who also advises Tesla CEO Elon Musk and billionaire rapper Jay-Z. But Neumann, who once called JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon his “personal banker,” doesn’t appear to have tapped bankers or financial advisors in his effort to buy WeWork, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Adding to the confusion is Neumann’s involvement with his latest venture, Flow, which is one of the parties bidding on WeWork. Following his ouster from WeWork, Neumann founded Flow, a startup that says it’s reinventing home ownership and building a sense of community among its tenants. 

Andreessen Horowitz invested a reported $350 million in Flow in 2022. Marc Andreessen, the venture firm’s co-founder, sits on Flow’s board. Andreessen Horowitz didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Neumann’s counsel is also representing Flow in WeWork’s bankruptcy proceedings. Flow and Neumann share a spokesperson, who confirmed the WeWork bid.

Questions about timing and plans

The timing of Neumann’s offer also raises questions about its viability. The bid came two weeks ago, sources said, and landed at a time when the company had yet to show a viable path to exit bankruptcy.

Sources said WeWork advisors are not currently running a bidding process for the company and are instead focused on moving through the bankruptcy proceedings in New Jersey.

Then there’s the reputational damage Neumann suffered in his waning days at the company. Prior to WeWork’s failed IPO in mid-2019, Neumann went on a fundraising and spending binge that public market investors determined was unsustainable. Even with WeWork’s business is freefall, Neumann profited handsomely.

SoftBank, WeWork’s largest investor at the time, ultimately spearheaded the ouster of Neumann, an ordeal that ended in court. SoftBank is one of WeWork’s creditors in bankruptcy court.

Neumann held significant equity in WeWork prior to its bankruptcy filing, but like other shareholders, his equity stake was wiped out. Any successful bid from Neumann would require that he first pay off secured creditors, who are first in line for repayment. Those creditors have shown no indication that they are weighing Neumann’s bid, one person said.

WATCH: WeWork founder Adam Neumann is trying to buy back the company

WeWork founder Adam Neumann is trying to buy the company back

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