I'm so old that I can remember when WeWork thought it couldn't possibly live without its co-founder and then-CEO, Adam Neumann.

  • "Our future success depends in large part on the continued service of Adam Neumann....
  • "Adam...is critical to our operations. Adam has been key to setting our vision, strategic direction, and execution priorities....
  • "If Adam does not continue to serve as our chief executive officer, it could have a material adverse effect on our business." 

That was all from WeWork's bizarre Securities and Exchange Commission filing in August. Since then, so much has happened. 

Investors soured. The Wall Street Journal published a damning profile of Neumann (more on that here). News broke that Neumann's board wanted him out. The company's IPO plans were shelved indefinitely.

Then, on Tuesday, reports emerged that WeWork's investors are now buying him off, dangling a package worth $1.7 billion for Neumann to simply walk away.

The Journal broke the story, including the eye-popping figure.

The news comes on the heels of reports that WeWork couldn't even follow through on plans to lay off thousands of its employees, because it can't afford to fund severance.

Its new co-CEOs are now leading a company full of workers who thought just months ago that they'd be getting paid.

If reports are true: The employees won't be rich. But Neumann sure as heck will.

"You've got to be kidding me," was one typical reaction on an internal WeWork discussion board, according to Bloomberg.

I mean, where do we even go with this? 

In the entire world, the top-paid CEO I can find would be Elon Musk, who reportedly made $2.3 billion last year. But that's complicated, and contingent on a number of hitting a number of milestones and targets, and frankly I'll believe it when I see it.

Separately, USA Today put together a list of the highest paid CEOs last year. Number 1 on the list was Hock E. Tan, whose compensation at semiconductor and infrastructure software manufacturer Broadcom, Inc. was estimated at $103.2 million.

Neumann will get more -- much more -- in order to not be a CEO. (Heck, I'd be willing to not be the CEO of WeWork for half what he's been offered.)

Reportedly, this is a man who aspired to become the world's first trillionaire. When someone suggested he might want to run for prime minister of his native Israel, he was said to have replied he'd only be interested in being president of the entire world.

Heck, his company's mission statement -- and since he seemed to control everything else, I'd assume he was behind this as well, was to "elevate the world's consciousness."

Now, what will people think of when they hear the name Adam Neumann? Not what he hoped, for sure.

He's made far more money than most people reading this will ever see. But the price might turn out to be more than he ever imagined.

Published on: Oct 23, 2019
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