It’s so easy to focus on Adam Neumann, the tall, long-haired, barefoot, meat-banning, weed-smoking, tequila-drinking, Kabbalah-studying, experimental school-opening Paltrow-cousin-in-law and founder and now deposed chief executive officer of the We Company, the real estate company that dropped “Work” from its name after it bought the copyright for the word “We” from Neumann himself.
Neumann’s ambitions were as ludicrous as his persona. “Rather than just renting desks,” Fast Company reported in January, “the company aims to encompass all aspects of people’s lives, in both physical and digital worlds.” This included expanding the WeWork model to residential housing and education. Before Neumann had even started the company, he had envisioned “WeSleep to WeSail to WeBank”. While none of these will ever be realised, perhaps he was right to think beyond office space subleasing. The company as he had built it is in crisis.