The We Company, which was once known as WeWork, will change its branding back to WeWork, Reuters reports. It is part of a larger reckoning, as the company recognizes it is in the real estate business, and somehow, nebulously, “tech.”
“We want to be strategic. We want to be innovative. We want to be impactful. We want to be WeWork,” wrote the new CEO of the once and future WeWork, Sandeep Mathrani, in the memo Reuters obtained.
Unless the last thousand years of pandemic have somehow rendered you amnesiac, you may recall that The We Company filed documents to go public in 2019, and got laughed at so hard its founder and CEO Adam Neumann had to quit. Also, the IPO was canceled. But before all that, in January 2019, the company was known as WeWork, and it occupied the most real office estate of any private company in Manhattan.
In January 2019, WeWork announced a rebrand: it would become The We Company, which was meant to reflect that WeWork was only one of three business lines. (The other two were WeLive, a communal apartment space, and WeGrow, for elementary schools, a particular pet project of Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, co-founder of WeWork, cousin of Gwyneth, and wife of Adam.) The We Company rebrand suggested larger ambitions than just a coworking space — a whole WeBrand lifestyle. Perhaps to credulous investors, this looked like an IRL Facebook.
But from the IPO documents in August 2019, the public discovered that in order to get the trademark for The We Company, WeWork paid We Holdings LLC $5.9 million. We Holdings LLC belonged to Adam Neumann, who essentially paid himself $5.9 million for the rebrand. He later said he’d return the money.
By reverting back to WeWork, the Neumann-less company appears to be accepting its future in real estate. (Rental arbitrage is not a terrible business model in non-pandemic times!) This makes sense; a little while ago, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann bought back WeGrow assets from the company soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-the-We-Company so she can build her own school. It is called SOLFL, short for Students of Life for Life, and pronounced “soulful,” I suppose.
Anyway, separately from the (potent!) symbolism of abandoning the intellectual property and other lines of business, the move acknowledges something that was apparent even before the IPO. Just about everyone went on calling The We Company WeWork, no matter what Adam Neumann or anyone else renamed it.