Neumann, who stepped down in late 2019 after a disastrous attempt to take WeWork public, could be eligible to sell nearly $500 million worth of his shares to SoftBank as part of a $1.5 billion stock buyback program for early WeWork employees and investors, according to a source familiar with the matter. The deal is not yet finalized.
The deal is part of a settlement under discussion to resolve a long-simmering legal dispute between Neumann, WeWork and SoftBank after the Japanese conglomerate walked away from a $3 billion WeWork share purchase agreement.
The terms of a possible settlement were first reported
by the Wall Street Journal. A second source familiar with the matter told CNN Business that the deal is close to being finalized but could still fall through.
WeWork, SoftBank, and a representative for Neumann declined to comment.
The settlement is half of what was previously on the table when SoftBank agreed to bail out the co-working company after a period of turmoil. As part of the deal in fall of 2019,
Neumann departed and had the chance to sell back nearly $1 billion of his shares — an opportunity
that infuriated some workers.
Under Neumann’s leadership, WeWork raised billions of dollars, scaled its coworking operations to hundreds of cities around the world, and was valued at an eye-popping $47 billion during one investment round. But the company also failed spectacularly in its attempt to go public in large part because IPO paperwork
revealed his unchecked power
and numerous potential conflicts of interest, as well as WeWork’s staggering losses.
In April 2020, SoftBank abandoned
plans to buy $3 billion in WeWork stock from Neumann and others, citing certain conditions of the deal that hadn’t been met, including the existence of pending criminal and civil investigations into the company, global restrictions related to the coronavirus, and the failure to restructure a joint venture in China. In response, Neumann and a special committee of WeWork’s board brought lawsuits.
News of a possible deal comes as SoftBank and WeWork attempt to turn the page on the Neumann chapter of the company. As the Journal reported, WeWork is in talks about a potential deal to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC,
to fulfill its ambitions of becoming a public company at long last.