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WeWork Adds Woman To Board, Plans IPO Roadshow, Gets Slammed By Sam Zell

WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann

The We Company is working to overcome an ongoing wave of criticism leading up to its initial public offering.

Among the criticisms have been the lack of a woman on the company's board of directors, which WeWork's umbrella company addressed on Wednesday with the announcement that it had named Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor and former Uber executive, to its board, Reuters reports.

In electing a woman to its board ahead of its IPO, The We Company avoided becoming the only company on the S&P 500 with an all-male board of directors, according to CNBC. The change came as part of WeWork's amended prospectus, where it also revealed that it had canceled a deal that would have the company pay CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann $5.9M for the trademark of the word "we," Reuters reports.

Though its public comments have been scarce in the Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated "quiet period" banning promotional comments from influencing a company's value ahead of an IPO, the moves reflect that WeWork has been listening to its chorus of critics.

Real estate investment giant Sam Zell added to the chorus in an appearance on CNBC Wednesday morning, saying that the commercial real estate industry has "committed suicide" by allowing WeWork to become the largest occupier of office space in New York, Washington, D.C., and London. Zell took issue with landlords trusting so much space to a company without long-term revenue streams.

Equity Commonwealth Chairman Sam Zell

“They should have just changed the name of the company to ‘saving and loan,’" Zell said on the network. "That’s really what you’re talking about, creating long-term liabilities and short-term assets. Every other time in history when they create that, results are predictable. Why is this any different?” 

What ultimately matters to the success of WeWork's IPO isn't what observers or the media thinks; it is potential investors who will make a public WeWork sink or swim. WeWork executives are planning a roadshow to meet with potential investors in multiple cities, including San Francisco and New York, Bloomberg reports.

The We Company is hoping to raise $3.5B with its IPO after several rounds of private investment grew its valuation to $47B. That private investment, led by Japanese firm SoftBank, has allowed the coworking giant to spend billions each year on expansion and acquisitions despite operating at massive losses.