- Adam Neumann told staff he planned to have his family control WeWork indefinitely at the company’s all-staff meeting in January, according to a video leaked to Business Insider.
- The now-ousted founder said at the company’s January all-hands meeting that he and his family control the company “100%.” He contrasted his situation with Google and Facebook, where he said founders have lost control.
- He said his five young children would “stay the moral compass of the company” and that even in 300 years, his descendants could control WeWork, even if they weren’t CEO.
- For more WeWork stories, click here.
Real estate is often a family business, and for Adam Neumann, founding WeWork was no exception.
Neumann envisioned WeWork as a multi-generational family dynasty that would keep close control of the company for hundreds of years. He explained his vision to staff at January’s Summit, an all-hands meeting in Los Angeles, according to a video clip reviewed by Business Insider.
The source who provided the video is not authorized to speak to media, but said the remarks were so standard for the unconventional founder that staff did not react.
- Source video
In the video, Neumann appears to respond to a question about WeWork’s investors.
“WeWork is a controlled company, people don’t know that,” he tells the audience. “I, Adam, and my family control the company 100%, very rare when you have investors. It’s not the truth of any company in the world, Google still has it a little bit, Facebook and Mark [Zuckerberg] already lost it, no other company else has it.”
The Neumanns made some plans that hinted at how they would keep this control. In WeWork’s original August filing to go public, Adam Neumann received 20 votes per share of his stock, an unusual structure even by Silicon Valley standards.
And if something happened to Adam, Rebekah Neumann would play a major role in succession planning. If Adam were permanently disabled or died in the decade following the IPO, Rebekah would be one of a two or three-member committee who would select the new CEO. If both Rebekah and Adam were unable to participate in the selection, the trustee of their estate would step into Rebekah’s shoes.
In subsequent filings, WeWork reduced Adam’s voting power and banned Neumann family members from the board. A representative for Neumann couldn’t be reached for comment.
‘Stay the moral compass of the company’
In the January video, Neumann highlights his long-term plan for the company. He and his wife Rebekah have five young children, whose involvement at WeWork included attending WeGrow, the school that’s closing at the end of the academic year, and flying on WeWork’s private jet.
“We’re not just controlled; we’re generationally controlled,” Neumann said.
He added that he didn’t expect his children to be future WeWork CEOs, as he was before his ouster last month. Neumann said he worried that his children wouldn’t “earn” leadership, and he would prefer a leader who “grew from the bottom.”
Even if the Neumann children didn’t lead the company, he still thought they would be involved.
“They don’t have to run the company, but they do have to stay the moral compass of the company. If we do this right, over the years, different CEOs will come, but we will keep an eye on these basic values and basic moral standards and not allow them to shift.”
Neumann intended this plan to work for the long term.
“It’s important that one day, maybe in 100 years, maybe in 300 years, a great-great granddaughter of mine will walk into that room and say, ‘Hey, you don’t know me; I actually control the place. The way you’re acting is not how we built it.'”
Neumann was replaced last month with two co-CEOs after a tumultuous lead-up to an initial public offering that was ultimately shelved. Investors cited a number of concerns with his leadership, including conflicts of interest with his family. Rebekah, who was credited as a co-founder and led WeGrow, also stepped back from her roles.