SoftBank Reportedly Negotiating To Take Control Of WeWork
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Even as it teeters on the brink of total collapse, The We Company still inspires fierce competition among potential investors.
SoftBank Group, WeWork's biggest single source of capital in the past three years, is negotiating to invest potentially billions more in a bid to take a controlling stake in the company, The Wall Street Journal reports. The added ownership share going to SoftBank would further diminish former CEO Adam Neumann's voting shares.
SoftBank's takeover offer is being weighed alongside a bid from a consortium of banks, led by JPMorgan Chase, to offer billions more in debt as a bailout package. WeWork reportedly may not have enough funds to continue operations past November and could need as much as $3B to finance another year in business, WSJ reports.
SoftBank already controls two seats on The We Company's board, and has tapped Bolivian-born executive and billionaire Marcelo Claure to lead 20 of its staffers in managing WeWork's turnaround, the WSJ reports. Claure will advise co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham in deciding how to best cut costs to shorten the company's path to profitability.
Though Neumann no longer has a role in the executive suite, he still sits on The We Company's board with shares that have three times the normal voting power. We Holdings LLC, which Neumann owns along with other early WeWork investors, still owns a third of the company.
The buyout offer would peg The We Company's value at below $10B, a far cry from when SoftBank Vision Fund offered $16B for a controlling stake that would have valued the company near $40B late last year.
Vision Fund's primary investors, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment Co., did not want to plunge that much cash into WeWork, the WSJ reports, leading Vision Fund to shrink the size of its investment in exchange for a lower proportional ownership percentage. The resulting deal spiked WeWork's valuation to $47B earlier this year.
Neumann's payout from SoftBank's takeover would reportedly go toward paying off his personal debt, but complicating matters is JPMorgan's position as Neumann's personal bank. It partnered with Goldman Sachs to underwrite WeWork's doomed initial public offering, but Goldman is not involved with the bailout package, the WSJ reports.