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SoftBank Installs More Executives At WeWork Leadership, Seeks Way To Shrink Bailout Package

SoftBank Installs More Executives At WeWork Leadership, Seeks Way To Shrink Bailout Package
WeWork Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure

SoftBank Group is reportedly having buyer's remorse over the massive bailout package it gave to WeWork, even as it solidifies its control over the coworking startup.

SoftBank took majority ownership of WeWork in October in a deal worth $9.5B, split among the acceleration of $1.5B in pre-agreed financing, $5B in new investment and a $3B tender offer to buy stock from existing shareholders, according to multiple reports.

That $3B tender was due at the end of October, but has yet to materialize, The Real Deal reported.

Days passed without any word on the cause of the delay, but on Thursday evening Bloomberg reported that SoftBank is attempting to renegotiate the cost of that tender offer. Part of SoftBank's push for a different deal comes from a desire to pay co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann less for his ownership stake — under the terms of the October offer, he stood to make as much as $970M from his shares, Bloomberg reports.

It is reportedly unclear if SoftBank could change its agreed payout, and the finance giant is attempting to raise the money to pay for the tender offer from capital sources in its native Japan, Bloomberg reports.

But SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and his team are not waiting around for the financials to shake out before making decisive moves at WeWork.

In an all-hands meeting on Friday, WeWork Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure laid out the broad strokes of a five-year turnaround plan to change the company from a prodigious over-spender to a profitable concern, Bloomberg reports. Claure, who still holds an executive position at SoftBank, was picked to lead WeWork after the investment conglomerate's takeover.

WeWork Artie Minson
WeWork co-CEO Artie Minson

Two more SoftBank executives will be joining WeWork's C-suite: Ralf Wenzel as chief product officer and Mike Bucy as chief transformation officer, Bloomberg reports. Also joining the company is Maurice Levy, former chairman and CEO of Paris-based Publicis Groupe, one of the oldest and largest communications and public relations firms in the world, as interim chief marketing and communications officer.

WeWork confirmed that it will be laying off 2,400 workers, or roughly 20% of its global workforce, in addition to the 1,000 maintenance and service workers that it transferred to JLL, The New York Times reports. Amid all the turnover, Claure told staff at Friday's meeting that Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham will remain as co-CEOs. The pair, along with co-founder and chief culture officer Miguel McKelvey, represent perhaps the most significant links to WeWork's early years.

One more thing has yet to change: WeWork's board still does not have any female members, though Claure promised staff that he is taking imminent steps to add them, Bloomberg reports. In more bottom line-focused announcements, Claure declared that the once-voracious startup will continue to expand into more markets, though in a more measured fashion and with profit a primary concern.

Claure suggested that joint venture agreements and possible franchising deals, like competitor IWG has recently begun pursuing, could be on the table as methods of expansion, Bloomberg reports.

With the layoffs, shedding of non-core businesses, executive turnover and new strategic guidance, Claure targeted 2021 for WeWork to produce positive adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The goal of the five-year plan is to make the company cash-flow-positive by 2023.