WeWork and SoftBank have announced a deal that will see the Japanese tech giant buy out around 80 percent of the beleaguered real estate company. Marcelo Claure, the former CEO of Sprint — which SoftBank acquired in 2012 — will be the new executive chairman at WeWork. Adam Neumann, the founder and CEO who is receiving more than a billion dollars to leave, will become a “board observer” without voting power. Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham remain co-CEOs of WeWork.
SoftBank is already WeWork’s largest investor, to the tune of more than $10 billion. The new deal includes $5 billion in further funding, $1.5 billion that had already been pledged for the future, and a $3 billion tender offer for existing shareholders outside SoftBank. WeWork claims, however, that SoftBank won’t have a majority of voting rights at any company meeting, making it an “associate” rather than a subsidiary.
SoftBank CEO and chairman Masayoshi Son downplayed the the nature of what can really only be described as an extraordinary bailout. “It is not unusual for the world’s leading technology disruptors to experience growth challenges as the one WeWork just faced,” Son said in a statement. “Since the vision remains unchanged, SoftBank has decided to double down on the company by providing a significant capital infusion and operational support.”
Son has become an even bigger player in tech investment in recent years with SoftBank’s colossal Vision Fund, making huge deals that basically no-one else is able to match. This latest injection of liquidity suggests a degree of faith in WeWork’s long-term prospects, which would put Son out of step with the broader investment community; WeWork was forced to scrap its IPO after investors baulked at the details in its S-1 filing.