SAGE Business Cases (2021)
This case examines the rise and fall of WeWork—a company that experienced one of the most dramatic changes of fortune in technology company history. For several years, WeWork was a Silicon Valley darling, growing at breakneck speed with visionary Adam Neumann at the helm. By some estimates, Neumann’s company was worth $47 billion in January of 2019. But when the company filed paperwork in preparation for going public later that year, investors balked at the details revealed in the documents: billions of dollars in losses and lots of questionable behavior on the part of Neumann (including numerous conflicts of interest involving his personal business dealings). The IPO was postponed and later withdrawn; Neumann was forced to step down as CEO; and by May of 2020 the company’s valuation had dropped to $3 billion. Exploring this recent history will provide an opportunity to ask what lessons can be drawn from the rise and fall of WeWork, and from the economic and social context that enabled its growth.