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Reports: WeWork Agrees To SoftBank Takeover At $8B Valuation


It looks like SoftBank Group will soon take ownership of its pet investment after watching its massive valuation shrink dramatically.

The Japanese investment giant and The We Company have agreed to a takeover deal valuing WeWork's parent company between $7.5B and $8B, CNBC and The Real Deal report. Nothing official has been formalized, but the most current parameters of the move would involve SoftBank spending $4B to $5B on a combination of new debt, equity and the purchase of existing shares.

WeWork's board had reportedly been weighing the SoftBank offer with a proposed multibillion-dollar bailout package from a consortium of banks led by JPMorgan Chase. Regardless of how the ownership and financing situation at the top of the organization shakes out, a contraction involving layoffs of as much as 13% of the workforce is also a heavy possibility.

To date, SoftBank has invested upward of $10B into WeWork, mostly through its Saudi- and Abu Dhabi-backed Vision Fund. The $8B takeover deal would be carried out by SoftBank's central business, rather than Vision Fund, CNBC reports, and led by former Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.

If the current deal framework holds, SoftBank will wind up with at least a 70% stake in WeWork, CNBC reports. Some of its new shares would come from WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann, whose erratic management style and outsized ambition were reportedly enabled by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, who had reportedly been a key force in Neumann’s ouster as CEO.

Though the voting rights of Neumann’s ownership shares had already been pared down from 20-to-1 to 10-to-1, he still possesses enough control to be the ultimate decision-maker on a sale deal, Axios reports. To take control over The We Company, SoftBank will buy $1B in stock from Neumann, pay him a $185M consulting fee and extend him $500M in credit to repay a loan led by JPMorgan, the Wall Street Journal reports

Though it has corresponded with a financial windfall, Neumann’s public fall from grace has been swift. Before the release of The We Company’s initial public offering prospectus in August, he was the charismatic face of a startup, one that inspired enough confidence in figures like JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to invest billions.

WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann

Neumann's removal as CEO and the first dilution of his ownership shares were meant to salvage WeWork’s doomed IPO after a Wall Street Journal report blew apart his public image. Now, SoftBank reportedly sees him as so toxic to its image that it is paying him to walk away from the still-private company.

Neumann’s raw ownership share would drop down to the “low teens” after the SoftBank deal goes through, CNBC reports.

With a mandate from its lenders to stem the prodigious losses incurred as part of its growth-focused business model, WeWork will slow its leasing pace. How much its pace will fall off remains to be seen. WeWork’s slowdown will be aided by office landlords who view WeWork less favorably than they did months ago.

The increased wariness may not extend beyond WeWork to coworking on the whole — two UK-based competitors, IWG and The Office Group, have made major gains in the past year.

UPDATE, OCT. 22, 10:12 A.M. ET: The story has been updated with new information about the terms of SoftBank's buyout of Neumann.