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Adam Neumann. Photo by Bloomberg

With WeWork’s Neumann, SoftBank Takes Path of Least Resistance

Photo: Adam Neumann. Photo by Bloomberg

Adam Neumann extracted an enormous price from SoftBank to go quietly, as the Wall Street Journal reported today. Yes, the man who almost drove the co-working space provider into the ground is getting paid to make a SPAC merger with WeWork possible. It raises the question: Why didn’t SoftBank simply call his bluff and refuse to negotiate with him? After all, Neumann is the individual who arguably would suffer the most if the SPAC deal didn’t happen and shareholders couldn’t exit.

Sure, SoftBank has a lot more invested in WeWork in absolute dollars. But for Neumann, who owes SoftBank $430 million secured by his WeWork stock, seeing those shares go to zero would seem to be more of an existential threat. Now, he has no need to worry. Under the final exit package SoftBank and WeWork negotiated with Neumann, as detailed in securities filings, SoftBank paid Neumann $578 million for stock that it valued at just $150 million in addition to a fee of $105.6 million. That was on top of a $92.5 million fee SoftBank paid Neumann in 2019 as part of a non-compete agreement. (That's hilarious—given the job Neumann did with WeWork, what kind of competitive threat would he represent?)

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