Less than a year ago, WeWork was a superstar of the startup world, a rapidly growing coworking company with a mission to “elevate the world’s consciousness” and a gargantuan $47 billion valuation.
But in the past few months, the company has devolved into chaos as it canceled its IPO, pushed out its founder, and narrowly avoided bankruptcy with a rescue funding package from its largest investor, SoftBank, which took control of 80 percent of the company.
In an exclusive recording obtained by Recode, on Wednesday the company’s new executive chairman, Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s COO and the former CEO of Sprint, addressed WeWork’s worried staff in his first all-hands meeting. He confirmed reported layoffs but he declined to give details about how many jobs, or which ones, will be cut. He did promise that the people who leave will do so “with dignity,” and that the ones who stay will have to work hard to help the company make a historical comeback.
“It’s not going to be be easy, it’s going to be bumpy roads,” said Claure. “This was a race that we were winning and then suddenly, it’s like we’ve lost momentum, and it’s hard to regain that momentum. We gotta regain the trust of those corporate customers who are going to think twice: ‘Do you really have the financial means?’ We gotta make sure that our employees understand that we are never going to go through the existential crisis we just went through.”
Claure went on to answer tough questions from employees about things like why the company founder and former CEO Adam Neumann exited the firm with $1.7 billion while many employees are facing job insecurity and company equity that isn’t worth much.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Miguel McKelvey, WeWork co-founder and chief culture officer
I think I’ve run out of the words to describe what’s been going on, from surreal to crazy to unbelievable to — someone texted me yesterday — “bonkers,” which all of those things are true and yet the reality is is that we’re still here and we’re still here together. I just want to remind all of us that we came here to do something meaningful in the world. While this may have been the craziest thing we’ve been through, we’re not a company that hasn’t been through crazy things before. For everyone who’s been around here for a while, we’ve all experienced things that were challenging for us personally, that were challenging for us as teams, that were challenging for us as a company to get through, and we’ve proven to be extraordinarily resilient. We’ve always come back, no matter what we’ve been through.
The reality is, from the very beginning, we came back every month when we had to deliver a building on the first and we all went through the personal crisis of, “Can we handle it? Can we make it through another building opening?’ all the way up through now to we’re experts in that and we can execute that around the world. We’ve been built on resilience. I think the way we have that resilience is because we believe in each other. We believe in our mission. We believe in what we came here to do. I think what we have today is an incredible vote of confidence in both that mission, as well as in all of us, in all of the work that we’ve done so far to get here, as well as in all of the future work that we need to do.
I just want to say with great gratitude, thank you to all of you, but also to our new partners in SoftBank. Incredible gratitude to them for believing in all of us. Every one of you should understand this investment as a belief in you, as a belief that the people that are investing in us as a company are putting their money behind all of you and the belief that we can do something good in the world.
Now that said, there’s going to be some very difficult times ahead for all of us. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to go through tough times. Just like I would say always, we’re going to get through it together. If we share positivity, if we approach this with humanity and we look out for each other, then we’re definitely going to make it through it and we’re going to come out on the other side stronger than we’ve ever been.
Thank you to all of you. Thank you to you guys up here on the stage who have been working hard to make this happen. It’s truly humbling to see the effort that people have made in the past month. Like I said, I think we’re on … Today is a new day. We have as clean a slate as we can get. Now it’s time to move forward and let go of things that have happened and bring that energy back, bring that magic back.
I just want to say, just getting to know Marcelo in the time that we’ve spent together, I had some trepidation: I don’t know who this guy is, but I got a chance to meet him and just spend time with them. He’s a person who you automatically … I automatically had respect for. I automatically connected with him. He felt like someone … who was open, who listened. I give him a lot of credit for the way he’s approached things so far. I think all of us, I think that we’re all going to learn to both appreciate Marcelo and the rest of the team, SoftBank team, who is joining and supporting us. I think they’ve been through this kind of stuff before. They have experience, they have expertise and they’re all here. They’re all in on this. With that, again, thank you so much. I’d like to introduce Marcelo.
Today is a … I would call this a historic day, on two fronts. One is, I’ve never been introduced by somebody that’s taller than me. (audience laughs) That was like, that’s good. It makes you humble. Then secondly, for all of you, this is truly a historic day for one very basic reason. We have guaranteed the future of WeWork, but more importantly is we’re putting the future back into our hands. There’s no more days needed to go fundraising. There’s no more days needed to go prove to the investor community that we’re a viable company. The size of the commitment that SoftBank has made to this company in the past and now is $18.5 billion. To put the things in context, that is bigger than the GDP of my country where I came from. That’s a country where there’s 11 million people.
This is probably the largest bet ever made. That’s because we believe in the mission of this company. We believe in the management team, and more importantly, we believe that we’re on the verge of doing something unique, disruptive. I could not be more excited of being part of a company that is transforming the way people work. Those are easier words to say if you haven’t experienced it.
My last job, I was the CEO of Sprint. I met with some folks at WeWork. They convinced me to basically take over my entire corporate headquarters. I think that was a real first Powered by We experiment. I’ve experienced it myself. Sprint was a 120-year-old company, tens of thousands of employees. When you walk through the corridors, those tall cubicles, people didn’t talk to each other, people didn’t communicate. When we brought them to an open and collaborative space, the magic started to happen. When people used to tell me about the WeWork magic, it was hard to explain it, but once you live it and you understand it … So I am a true believer in the brand, and … I love the experience because I’ve experienced it myself.
Today, being here today was interesting. I decided yesterday, I said, hey, we finished negotiating this deal and we’re going to talk about … or you can ask all the tough questions that you want. I think we finalized signing the papers, I was leaving the hotel at 7:45 pm. I came here at eight. I met with Sebastian, I said, “I want to do a town hall with all the employees. “All my … Where’s my SoftBank head of communications? He’s right there. He’s a little more conservative. He says, “You’re out of your mind. People are pissed off, people are confused. You should not show up.” Somebody else told me, “Wait till the layoffs are done and then come in.” That’s not my style. My style is I want to be frontal, open. I believe that we’ve got to be very honest with each other. Here I am, against every recommendation, and I want to make sure that we have a very honest Q&A and we can talk to each other. Thank you.
I’ll give you two minutes about me. I come from a country, from a tiny, small country, Bolivia. I’m one of those stories of something that’s not supposed to happen. I started my life in soccer. I was part of a team, of our Bolivian national team, not playing, but part of the management that took Bolivia to the World Cup. To put things in perspective, Bolivia to the World Cup is like a middle school team winning the World Cup. It’s not supposed to happen. It’s like the high school NBA winning the World Series, never happened. It only happened once. That was the life learning experience for me because it taught me that everything is possible if you have a clear goal and if you have clear plans. That, basically, I will say made me who I am today.
I started my first business. I went to a cellphone store to buy a cellphone, ended up buying the store on credit, grew it to be the largest retailer of mobile phones in the Northeast, expanded like crazy, changed the business model, started a distribution company from the back of my car, grew it to be the world’s largest distribution company, the world’s largest supply chain company in the wireless industry. It reminds me so much to WeWork. We expanded to 70 countries. We grew from zero to $10 billion. We were profitable. We always kept that in mind. Cash is king (audience laughs), quite important.
Then, I was sitting in a trade show in Barcelona and I had a Japanese guy sitting next to me and I told him my story. He told me, “You have to meet this guy called Masa. You and Masa are going to get along good.” I had no clue who Masa was. I googled Masa, and for those of you who haven’t googled Masa, he’s quite a character, one of the most successful entrepreneurs, and I would say the largest visionary in the world. We met, he immediately understood what I did in terms of buying used phones, used Apple phones and so on. He asked me, “How long did it take you to implement in Verizon?” I told him it took me nine months. He says, “Can you do it in three days in Japan?” Flew a team of engineers, translated a software, we were live in 5,000 shops. He says, “You can execute. Great.”
Started working, a few months later I hear back from Masa. He bought Sprint. He was trying to merge it with T-Mobile. He got a call from the government that said, “We love you, Masa, but it ain’t happening.” I remember they said, “It is DOA.” Then Masa looked at me and said, “What’s DOA?” I said, “Dead on arrival.” He says, “Oh my God, we’re toasted.” He looks at me and he says, “What should we do?” I said, “First thing we should do is we replace the CEO. He’s not the right leader.” He looked at me and said, “That’s great. Do you want to be the CEO of Sprint?” I said, “There’s probably a million people that are more qualified than me.” I said, “I have my own company …” I had my own company, Brightstar. By then, Brightstar was the No. 1 in the world with the largest Hispanic business ever created.
Then I told Masa, “I can’t, I have a big company. It’s worth many billion. It sells a lot of billions of dollars of mobile phone.” He says, “Don’t worry about it. I buy it from you if you commit to run Sprint for me.” I went to Sprint. Sprint was on the verge of bankruptcy, three to four weeks left of cash, one of the most iconic 120-year-old company, tough competitors, Verizon, AT&T, losing millions of customers, burning something like $5 billion of free cash, had never made money in the last 11 years. We put a very clear plan together. Everybody knew what they had to do.
Four years later, the first time ever that they generated net income. We delivered the best financial results in the 120-year history. As relentless as we are, we say, now we’re going to go do this T-Mobile thing again. We’re in the final stages of hopefully combining Sprint and T-Mobile, which will be by far the best and most disruptive to the communications company in the world. So, done my job, ready to quit and go back to Miami to be an entrepreneur, and then Masa told me, “You’re a great entrepreneur. You built a company from scratch, very successful.” He says, “You’re a good operator. You fixed Sprint.” He says, “But you suck at investing. You know nothing about investing.”
He invited me to go to Tokyo. I lived in Tokyo for one year. I’m in charge of seeing all the operating companies of the group, meaning all the companies that we own more than 50 percent. In addition, I run a Latin American fund that I was just getting started, happily move with my family of six kids, moved back to Miami, and then WeWork showed up. We’ve had many, many endless nights with Masa in terms of what was the next thing to do with WeWork. I would say that 99 percent of advice that we got is to cut your losses and run away, but Masa absolutely is a believer in WeWork and the mission and disruption.
You say why, right? The easy thing was just run away. There were no need. We didn’t have to come in and make an investment of this size. We’re basically betting SoftBank. We’re betting our reputation and we’re betting everything we have that this is going to be a success story. We want people to look at this move as not a failure, but we want this move as a genius move. We had many, many nights of debate. Everything that we look at the business, the more we dig, the more we love the business, the more community managers we interact with, the more we love the business.
I went to a few WeWorks, hung out, looked at what was going on. Masa spent hours, he went to WeWork in Japan, sat, how many empty desks, who comes in and what time? Then we had to make a decision. We started saying, how big is this? The commercial real estate market is $70 trillion. It’s just enormous. The possibility to disrupt something of that magnitude, I look at it, it happens once in a lifetime.
WeWork is by far the leader. We’re the forefront of it. We have what’s called the first-mover advantage. Companies that have the first-mover advantage are the ones that can take the leadership and take it to another level. I think a good example of that is a company like Google, they got in, they started winning and they took it to another level, and the complete opposite is MySpace in social media — had the first-mover advantage but they totally screwed it up, right? I think we are such leaders as it relates to this space that we’ve got to make sure that we take advantage of first-mover advantage.
This company has an amazing brand, right? I meet with so many young entrepreneurs who come pitch for us to invest and most of them sit in a WeWork office and they love it. They love the experience. They love the brand. It’s a moment of pride when they say, “My offices are in WeWork.” It’s amazing that 38 percent of the world’s largest companies, Fortune 500 companies, actually have contracts with us. I mean, these companies have choices. These are not companies … In many cases, a smaller company doesn’t have a choice. They want to come into a short-term lease, but the big corporate enterprises, they’ve got choices. There’s tons of buildings where they can go. The fact that they choose WeWork as a place where they want to expand is mind blowing.
We have an amazing set of customers. Again, the stories that I’ve been told of customers willing to come and say, “Hey, if I can help you financially, let me prepay you. Let me help you go through this crisis.” We have landlords, right? We have so many landlords. Even in these tough times, they have approached and they’re eager to partner. They’re eager to find different models working with us. I think more importantly and what is incredible is this dedicated workforce, the resilience that you have shown through this month. I don’t think there’s any other company in the world where there’s hundreds of articles being written by the hour, all sort of articles, and the fact that you’re still here … because you’ve got choices. We all got choices whether we want to work here or want to go somewhere else. I think this dedicated workforce is what makes this place an incredible place.
When we decided to do this, we could look at it both ways. This is a massive challenge or a massive opportunity. I studied a few companies, the world’s leading companies. Every single leading company in the world has undergone a type of moment that we’re going through. Every company has had what is called these near-death experiences or these growth crises or these growth challenges, which is what we experience today. I call this an inflection point. This is what we’re beginning today. We have solved a very big problem, right? There is no more cashflow issues … Now we can give back and start to focus on what we know how to do, and that is to delight our customers.
There’s nothing more that I want than to prove all those detractors that are writing articles about us that they’re completely wrong, that there’s magic to this business. They have no idea. They don’t go to a WeWork facility to experience the type of product that we have. We’re going to work real hard to make sure we get there, but it cannot all be about an idealistic, saying we’re going to go, we’re going to win. My goal in the next 30 days is to work with this management team, to work with Artie, Sebastian, and all the incredibly talented members of the team to basically set up a plan. This plan is going to be very clear. We’re all going to know what each one of us is supposed to do. I’m going to make sure that it’s not an empty plan. I’m going to make sure there’s numbers. I’m going to make sure that we can measure. I’m going to make sure that we can hold people accountable.
What you can expect from me is total … I’m going to be very blunt. I’m going to communicate with you a lot … for the journey. I have a very strong work ethic. Anybody that knows me knows that I work extremely hard. I don’t tolerate mediocrity. I’m always going to lead by example. I’m never going to ask my team to do stuff that I’m not willing to do. Every company that I’ve run, so far I’ve done good. I make sure that I put a very simple plan, that every single employee or every single member of our family truly understand what each one is supposed to do. When you do that, you have a fully alive workforce and it’s amazing what starts happening when we’re all aligned.
Make no mistake, the world has changed. The growth stories don’t sell anymore. This is about how do we build a company that has an amazing product that delights our customers but also makes money, right? We’re going to put together a plan and we’re going to share with everybody. The danger of putting a financial plan in front of everybody is that now we as a team are committing to that. Since this company is so public, everything that you do basically shows up in every newspaper even faster. We find out more what’s going on with WeWork from the press than from ourselves. I’m sure our plans are going to be public, which means that pressure is going to be on us to deliver what we commit we’re going to say.
What do I want from you? I want a committed workforce. I want people to show up every day at work. All I can ask is to give it all you have. It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be bumpy roads. We have a lot to recover. We’ve lost some ground. This was a race that we were winning and then suddenly it’s like we’ve lost momentum and it’s hard to regain that momentum. We’ve got to regain the trust of those corporate customers who are going to think twice, “Do you really have the financial means?” We’ve got to make sure that our employees understand that we’re never going to go through a crisis, the existential crisis we just got through.
Then what else I want from you is total honesty and candor. My email is easy. I read all my emails. It’s [redacted]. You can write me anything that you want. Give me good ideas. Tell me when we’re doing dumb things. What I’m committed to is, we’re going to read them. We might not get to all of them if you send too many, so be thoughtful and send stuff that can really transform. That’s the way we’re going to play it.
Layoffs, it’s in everybody’s mind, layoff, severance, right? I don’t have all the answers. I wrote you a letter yesterday. Are there going to be layoffs? Yes. How many? I don’t know. It’s day one. But what I will guarantee you is whoever is asked to leave this family is going to do … We’re going to make sure that they leave with dignity, that we’re taking proper care of them, and that we’re rewarding them for them having taken a chance on WeWork. For the ones that stay, we’re going to give you total transparency. You’re going to be a partner. We’re going to figure out a way how you share in whatever we create together, in all of the value that we create together. We’re going to be realistic about valuations. We’re going to be very honest about how much this company’s worth. We’re going to basically set the clock again, start the clock again. I call it … this is round two or phase two in the life of this company.
I want to thank you again. Your resilience and your persistence is mind blowing. I don’t think any other company in the world has gone through what you guys have gone through in the last two months. We’re a story of an IPO with a high valuation, and we’re also a story that in two weeks we’re going to run out of cash. The fact that now that’s out of the picture, I think that’s amazing. My goal is to be part of one of the most amazing comebacks in history and to build, jointly with you guys, one of the most amazing companies that has ever been built. I want to prove all the skeptics wrong.
Now, I’m happy to answer absolutely any questions that you may have. I think there’s somebody with a microphone. Raise your hand. Don’t be shy. I apologize in advance if I don’t have all the answers, as this is hour one of day one. If I don’t have an answer for you today, I’ll get back to you with an answer. I can address pretty much anything that we don’t … If I don’t have the answers, most of the members of the management team are here. We’ve got Artie, Sebastian, and Miguel, and we’ll try to answer any questions that you can have. So again, thank you for all you do and I look forward to building the next chapter of WeWork together.
All right. Anybody wants to raise their hand?
If you can say your name and what do you do?
Hi. Sorry guys. My name is [redacted]. I work with Enterprise Services. I joined WeWork in January 2015 and I think that as amazing as the platform is, any instrument can be a weapon in the wrong hands. And so when we talk about the growth and the potential, what systematic tools are we going to put into place to make sure that we don’t lose our soul?
That’s an important piece, right? Don’t think, “Hey, there’s a new corporation that came in and is going to take away the magic of this place,” because sometimes it’s hard to describe what WeWork is all about until you truly experience it. So we’re going to be a company that’s going to have very clear goals, going to have a management team that has accountability. We’re going to make sure that we continue to grow, I like to call it a profitable growth, meaning we’re going to be selective of where we invest our money. We’re going to go back to the basics, and I call that WeWork. We’re going to eliminate a lot of the destruction. We’ve got to evaluate which markets make sense for us to be and which market it doesn’t make sense for us to be.
And I think you’re going to see us be a lot more focused on where do we play, in which parts of the world do we play, which are the cities that we should be playing in, and double down, triple down in those cities. And we’re going to go back to the basics. What the plan that already I have initiated in terms of getting out of businesses that they might have been a good idea if a company was more stable. But I think the size of the market that we have ahead of us, just in commercial real estate, it’s just so large. And even though we’re a big growth story, we’re tiny. I mean, our revenue’s comparison to the size of the market, in some markets we’re less than 1 percent of the real estate market. So you’re going to see us do that.
We’re going to put dashboards together so we can all see how we’re performing in a daily, weekly, monthly basis and we’re going to share that. We’re going to have a culture of total transparency in terms of performance, in terms of how we’re doing to the goals that were set forward. First, we’ve got to set those goals first. We’ve got to sit down, plan, and I’m going to work with the team to make sure we do that relatively fast.
Hi, my name is [redacted]. I’m part of Corporate Systems. I have a question for you. When I came here, the WeWork 1.0, this company had done some amazing things, meat-free policy, donations, charities, so on and so forth. How important is that going to be for you as you you rewrite the chapter of WeWork 2.0? Those amazing cultures, the energy, meat-free is just one example, but so many other amazing things this company has done and is known for. How important is that to you as you right WeWork 2.0?
It is super important because you got to have a workforce that’s committed. You’ve got to have a work force that has fun. And you’ve got to have a workforce that wakes up every morning with the desire to come and give it all they have. And we’re going to see and we’re going to measure what are the things that make a difference. And that’s going to be the determination of what we keep as certain things just don’t make a difference. And then told them to come from working with the team and understanding what are the things that are going to make employees even be more committed to WeWork. Now why this is important? If you do not have committed, happy, satisfied sales forces or teams, community managers, then how can we serve our customers? How can we be selling an amazing … WeWork is going to be a place where your companies are going to live through an amazing culture when we don’t have that in our house?
So it is definitely a big area of focus because we got a, you know, we got to drink our own Kool-aid, we got to make sure that if we’re selling this magic to others, we got to have this same magic in our spaces, in our first-floor employee workforce. So you can rest assured that what works stays and what doesn’t work, you know ,we’re going to change it and we’re going to innovate to make sure that we have a very high-satisfaction workforce. And we’re going to measure that because it’s easy to say you have a happy workforce, easy to say you have a great culture, but we’re going to measure it and we’re going to be very honest with each other.
And the only way we can fix problems that we have is if we know what’s wrong. And the only way we know what’s wrong is basically you on the field in the countries, the management of the company, the customer service managers, the receptionists in the interest that is interacting with customers. So we’re going to take a big focus on understanding how can we just make sure that we have a fully committed workforce.
Hi, my name is [redacted]. (audience applause)
Well first you’ve got to tell me why the people like you so much? (audience laughs)
Because I asked a question at the last All-Hands meeting.
I’m with the Development Finance Group, I do data analytics and reporting and today’s my one-month anniversary at WeWork. (applause)
You’re very popular for one month.
Well, I’d like to say that while this hasn’t been the beginning month that I expected when I started here, the meeting, all the people that I’ve met over the past month, whether it was in finance or legal or technology or the community associates throughout the company, they all want one thing common. They all had a real love of the company and a desire to see it succeed. And I think they’re really the secret sauce you need to help this company become what you need it, want it to be.
And what I wanted to ask was, rightly or wrongly, when you have a shake-up, you know, layoffs are one of the first things that happen. I experienced, I believe there was a 10 percent layoffs in the end of 2015 you oversaw. Could you tell us, A) as you look at the numbers now, is there any chance at all you think that they may not have to be layoffs? And B) could you compare and contrast the turnaround and layoffs at Sprint with what’s going to happen here at WeWork?
Okay. So yes, there will be layoffs, right? We have to right-size the company for the plan that we have going forward. Like I said, I don’t have an exact number. I’d be lying if I told you that, but one of the things that whatever we do, we’re going to do it fast and we’re going to be very transparent. At Sprint, it was, the way we did it was incredible. I mean, people understood that the fact that you’re going to be laid off is not that you’re not capable. It is the fact that we had to have a shrinking sales force in order for the company to survive. Very different. Sprint was about surviving. This is about thriving.
But what I can tell you is every single employee that left Sprint, the emails that they sent was thinking of saying the way you have treated it. I know these set the stage many times … What I was trying to do before is, before we’re going to choose, you know, which are the employees that we’re no longer going to need their services is we’re going to get into their shoes and we’re going to understand, “How can we make this less painful?”
It’s always painful. You know, they’re never, it’s never a day of joy, right? But it’s something that whoever is laid off, they’re going to know that they’re taking one for the team to make sure this company thrives in the future. We’re going to be fair financially to the people that we do that and we’re going to be very grateful for the services that they have given to WeWork. I want to get back. I want to get that behind us. I mean, that is important. So then we can have, we can be truly focused on what comes ahead, which is going to be, it’s all going to be about execution. If you go back to what I said before, we have absolutely everything that we need to be successful. We have … the size of the industry is enormous. The product customers love, they love the brand.
The world is transforming. The only thing that we’re missing is going to be execution, and the best way to have a team ready to execute is let’s get that behind us. Let’s figure out, let’s rightsize the, you know, the size, what is going to be the right size to run WeWork, and do that fast under this move towards, you know, towards delivering the plan that we’re all going to sign up for. And more importantly, let’s get back to building that energy that we have. I’ve noticed a change. I used to come here two years ago, three years ago as an investor. And the mood was a bit different. And I think that once we get all this stuff together, which we’re going to do fast, is I want to make sure that this place, this floor and the floors behind, below us are basically people thriving. And you can see that energy when people … and that’s going to be my job and I’m going to make sure I spend a lot of time in the way we do this.
Hi. I’m [redacted] from Recruiting. So in recruiting, one of the main things is any time we reach out to candidates for key hires, first thing they usually do is look at the media. So my question for you is, I guess, what’s our strategy to kind of clarify things with the media? Right. So in the S-1 there were a lot of good stuff that the company is going through, right? Every two years a building. A lot of our buildings are becoming profitable every two years. There’s a lot of positive things from the customer side that is not being covered in the media, right? It’s usually really, really negative. So what’s our strategy for kind of turning that around?
So a few things. I think we’re humble, we’re too humble in not showing the amazing success stories that we have from our members. I mean, there’d be so many incredible companies that are started with one or two employees their, you know, WeWork facility and now they got hundreds and hundreds of employees and there are success stories and many of them have been done through living in this WeWork community where members interact with each other. And I think we got to get back to that in order to showcase. People come to great places to work. People come to work for a leader. Yes, they do work for a company. But remember that … most people actually work for a person, they want to be part of a great company. And I think one of the things that has always haunted WeWork has been the constant valuation exercises and people talking. “How much is this company worth? How much is this company not worth?”
I mean, there’s some real, I mean, well, I also read the media and there’s some amazing, there’s some attacks whether this place, whether it survives or not. We have to tell people. We have to tell prospective employees that there’s a reason why, probably the largest investment company in the world and the tech world just basically bet 18 and a half billion dollars. So there’s zero risk of this company going bankrupt. There’s zero risk of this company ceasing to exist. That is all behind us, right? Now, you can share with employees, I mean even in these tough crises and we’re looking at the amount of buildings that we’re opening, the building we just opened in New York is one of the most historic buildings. What we just did in London, what we’re doing around the world, in terms of opening, you know, thousands and thousands of desks.
We’re going to double the size of this company in the next nine months. Tell me another business that you know of this scale that is actually going to deploy three to four hundred buildings, large-scale buildings, implementation in the world. There isn’t any. I mean, for big hotel chains they open one hotel, two hotels a month around the world. Where we’ve signed up to do is something that has never done before and that requires a different type of employee, but this requires people who want to be part of something that’s going to make history.
I mean, think about it, it took us nine years to open this many buildings and in the next nine months we’re going to replicate that. At the beginning, it’s easy, right? It’s just a few buildings. Now the size and scale that we’re at today to do that, there’s a lot of people who get excited with that, to be a part of a company that’s going to make history, and I think there’s a lot of people who want to be part of a comeback and we are a comeback. And we are going to be an amazing comeback and that’s how we got to sell it, you know? And then more importantly is that we let the results speak for themselves. Right. We can talk all we want. We can do as many town halls that we can. The best way to keep detractors or to keep the media away is by showing results, by showing that we have a plan and showing that we’re executing that plan. That’s what we’re going to do as a group.
Hello, [redacted] from the Enterprise Finance team. One of the things that I’ve appreciated that we worked on recently is the partnership with HBS and we’ve had the opportunity to take a couple of classes with Harvard professors. In the last case, it was actually for one of the Japanese railways. One of the first things the CEO did was change the focus of the company from cleaning to hospitality. WeWork in the press, so some people call us a real estate company, design, hospitality. A few months ago it seemed like leadership wanted to bring community to the world. You’ve talked a lot about commercial real estate. How would you define the scope or focus of WeWork going forward?
Again, this is day one, but I will give you, and by no means do I claim to have all the answers, but what I do see ,something I experienced myself, and that is all you got to do is walk around corporate America and see how miserable those buildings are. I mean, the cubes are taller than me. People don’t communicate. People hate coming to work. You don’t even know if they show up or they don’t show up. And that’s across the board from pretty much all of corporate America. And then you contrast that to a WeWork facility where you’re working on this energy, it’s just mind blowing, right? So that business alone, there’s just so much more to gain, right? Sure, we’d love to do other things. I mean, there’s tons of We other initiatives out there.
Where I want to focus is on our core business. I want to focus on what made this company successful at the beginning. And sometimes most companies that lose their path, it’s a great exercise to go back to the humble beginnings and understand what we were great at, execute the brilliant basics. And then after that, you know, let’s go experiment, but you never stop innovating. We’re always going to innovate and try new things and fail fast, because companies that don’t innovate, you know, they will die. But in this case, we got to get back to the basics and providing an amazing experience to our members. You know, want to see those members are happy because if they’re happy at work, then they’re going to be happy at home and they’re going to establish those connections. So we’re going back to the basics is going to be all about WeWork. There’s not going to be any more of the We Company. And it’s going back to the basics that have made this company, I mean, one of the most top companies in the world.
Hi, my name’s [redacted], I do data platforms for the Global Events team. My question is about how our leadership structure works now. We had founder and a CEO, we moved to co-CEOs, we now have a more active executive chairman. How do those relationships work? What are your spheres of influence? How do we understand when to play?
I’m going to ask you to give me a little time for us to get organized a little better. I mean, I got a lot already. Sebastian, Miguel, they all jumped, you know, it takes a lot of guts to jump, you know, when there’s crisis, to basically say, “I’m here and I’m going to be the two co- CEOs,” And it’s not easy, right? And I think what we have to do in the next couple of weeks is organize ourselves to create a culture of execution and accountability. And that’s what both Artie, Sebastian, we’re going to discuss, what is the best way to do it, but I don’t have a straight answer to tell you right now.
Am I going to be a hands-on leader? Absolutely. Have I committed to Masa that I’m going to be at a WeWork facility from Tuesday to Friday? 100 percent. Mondays I’m going to dedicate myself to my other businesses. I go to many of the companies that I oversee, but I’ve made sure there’s last two, three days to pass on a lot of those responsibilities because I do want to make sure that this is a success. I want you all to understand that the easy way for us was to just get the hell out and just run away and we are betting on this team to make sure that we make WeWork for the most successful companies in the world and we’re betting our franchise, we’re betting SoftBank. Most people think that we are out of our mind crazy for what we’re doing, and that makes us more excited than ever because the opportunity is huge. And there’s nothing, there’s no better pleasure at the end than to prove all those detractors wrong.
I always remember my first couple of weeks at Sprint, this guy [Jim] Cramer that you see on TV. I remember my first, you know … I was in an interview and I say, you know, “This is going to be a long journey” and he basically says, “A journey to where? A journey to death.” And then four months later he says, “Oh my God, this stock has gone from $2 to $8 and they have traded billions and billions of dollars of value.” And I want to do the exact same thing. All those detractors that write about us. You know, I want to absolutely prove to them that they are totally wrong and that this becomes one of the best investments SoftBank has ever made in its history. And for that I’m going to dedicate a vast amount of my time, until I find that this company’s going in the right direction. And once I got that, then obviously, you know, I’m going to spend less time. But until I feel that we are in the right path, I’m going to work very closely with the management team of this company to make sure that that is happening. I am not going to be a nonactive chairman to be certain of that.
Buenos dias, Marcelo, welcome to the WeWork family.
Some people think that I’m a little bit crazy because I just moved from Argentina to United States just this month, but I believe this is, I just arrive in the right moment because there are plenty of opportunity that I think that are going to be opening. I just want to thank you. You, Sebastian, Artie, and Miguel too, to help us and support us. Especially in these moments, I think we really need all your support. Well, where you see for, maybe it’s too soon to make you this question, but where you see WeWork in a middle or long term, what is your vision for the longer future?
I mean, again, day one, hour one and a half. We’re going to be a great company with satisfied customers. I want to see a company where we are the partner of choice, right? Any growing company in the world should think, rather than going and signing a 15 year lease with anybody, they should be able to, the aspirational place should be, “I want to go and live in a WeWork facility. I want to make sure that my company grows in a WeWork facility.” When you look at companies, right? When you send an envelope next-day delivery, you don’t say that, right? You say, “I’m going to FedEx you something,” or you say, “I’m going to Uber myself somewhere.” We are on the cusp of doing that and in some cities we have 1, 1, 1 and a half percent market share, and once you get to 2, 3, 4 percent market share in those cities, then suddenly this whole thing changes.
The power of WeWork is going to be seen at that and that’s what I want. I want every single enterprise that actually is expanding to think that the right way to expand is going to be using a WeWork facility. I want every single developer in the world as they’re developing new buildings or the current landlords, let’s say that they say that the easiest way for them to fill their buildings is with WeWork. To take away that credit risk that sometimes they think about. And then thirdly is I want to make sure that we have a committed workforce where when we manage the net promoter score, none of our customers, but where we manage the net promoters score of employees, which is the toughest one to measure, that we are way up there with the world’s best companies. That’s where I want to take WeWork with the help of this management team.
Obviously we want to be a company of growth. I would say a little different type of growth, a little more focused growth. And I want to make sure that as soon as we, this company is stable, you know we start thinking of ways on how can we expand, fast but smart meaning how we can invest less cash and actually leverage the power of the brand. How can we be doing most of our deals being managed deals? How can we participate in leases and how can we make the investments in places where we put our capital in places that we know is going to work … And I think I’ve heard, you know, I’ve only been interacting with a few members of the team and I think we all know what we have to do, but it’s a matter of putting it together in a plan and my goal is to deliver to you guys in the next two to three weeks a very clear and concise plan that everybody knows which way we are heading to.
I was expecting a little tougher questions.
And if there’s something in your mind that you want to talk, there’s nothing that’s off limits.
My name is [redacted]. I’m in the Marketing department. Thank you for being here with us today. It’s a big deal. It’s your first day, first hour. Something the company has received criticism for is gender diversity and lack thereof on our board and in our C-suite and in some layers of leadership. How do you think about diversity and inclusion efforts and knowing that the company has a massive list of priorities to tackle first, like execution and profitability. Will that remain a focus? (audience applause)
It should be. And before I address all of you, I had a, I call it my first management meeting. And one of the topics that we talk is that there were a lot of women in the room, right? I mean, I think it was a good percentage, and I need to look at where are we today as it relates to the board, the management team, and all the areas of the companies. And we should make it, you know, we should put a dedicated plan to make sure that this place is diverse. Not only men, women, but also, you know, one thing that I learned is we should always, the management team should be a representation of the customers that we serve, right? And we’re going to try to work on that to make sure that we have a good representation, because that way we can always, you can only serve your customers better if they’re appropriately represented in your management team.
And we’re going to put a real effort to make that happen. And it’ll be one of the priorities as long as other such as you were very clear, cashflow and profitability, and I want everybody to know this from a cashflow and profitability perspective. Don’t get confused again that, hey, these guys are coming just to try to strike some profit and all that. We’re not. We want this to be a growth story. We want this to be an amazing comeback story, but I understand that the markets are no longer interested in growth companies. And believe it or not, we have created that, right? So we’re going to have a plan that addresses growth, that addresses customer satisfaction, that address employee satisfaction, but at the end, if we execute all that right, then the results, all that will translate into financial results, which means companies are in the business of generating free cash flow so they can deliver it to shareholders and so they can reinvest in growing the business.
This cannot be a business that, “Hey, we want to grow, we got to raise more money and more money.” The money worries should be gone by now, right? We have everything that we need financially to go fund this. So now you know, we will look at diversity. To be honest, when a company is on the verge of running out of cash, do you care about diversity? No. This would be why the last two, three weeks were so crucial in terms of finding, I say taking back the company, you know, to our own hands. Now that that’s secured, we started looking at other things and diversity will play a key part into it.
Hello. Okay, perfect. You’ve answered a lot of them, but one question that keeps coming up is on the employee value proposition. Many people came here for high growth. We’ve had summit, summer camp. What do you see as sort of, you know, after we get through the restructuring, you know, why should people stay in this next phase?
You know, hard to commit to what will stay, but what I can tell is I’m committed to create it, an amazing employee value proposition. And we got to determine what is done, what do customers appreciate and what makes sense. But I’m totally committed to that.
Hi, my name is [redacted]. I worked for the Central Data team. I run our central data warehouse with a couple other data engineers. It’s kind of a hard question to ask, I feel like, but today, you know, it’s in the news. We’ve seen in the news, Adam’s getting paid a billion dollars, right? Adam’s getting paid a billion dollars (audience applause), he’s getting a $185 million consulting fee. Okay? I’ve been here since April 2017 and basically every quarter we’ve heard, “Trust me, trust me, trust me, trust me, trust me. We’re going to be more transparent.” And this is an amazing business. We’ve done amazing things. We’re going to continue to do amazing things. But really the core of this question is, what are you going to do differently about transparency that you’ve never done before? What is it that’s going to change? We need to see change. (audience applause)
Good. Should we tackle the Adam? So let’s just … First, maybe it’s popular or unpopular. There’s a level of gratefulness that we got to have for Adam because he’s the one who built this business or the leader that built this business until today. And for that, for his vision, for entrepreneurship, for the drive, for the passion, you know, I’m never going to be ungrateful because the reason why I’m standing in this stage, well, because he started that business. So I’ll start there. Now, businesses go through transition. There are different leaders for different types in the business and this is why Adam is no longer here and this is why I’m here. Okay, payout? So the media loves to exaggerate things. Adam is a shareholder of the company and we believe so much in this company that we’re going to put a tender of $3 billion for any shareholder that wants to go sell their shares.
Why are we doing this? Because when Masa, we decided that we need shareholders that share the same vision and passion with us. The amount of fight between shareholders, the amount of different opinions that there are. We want to make sure that people understand we’re here to grow WeWork and to make it profitable and to create a company that’s going to be one of the most valuable companies in life. But to do that, we want to make sure that any shareholder that wants to leave, we’re going to issue a tender and they’re going to have the ability to sell their shares. And we hope that the ones that are not committed to our plan can basically sell their shares. So Adam has the ability to sell. I have no idea if Adam is going to sell one share, a billion dollars, 500 billion. I don’t have the slightest clue what it is.
But as a shareholder, he has the ability to sell his shares. He founded the company, he has a tremendous amount of shares. So nobody’s paying Adam a billion dollars or $1.7 billion. That’s one. Two, Adam for whatever reason, borrowed money from JPMorgan. And as part of this, you read in the news, you know the different packages that were being offered to the company. So we made the decision to lend Adam a certain amount of money for him to pay his loan. But in exchange as he sells those shares, he needs to pay us right back. So think about it, we’re giving him a loan so we can … so those shares were pledged, so those shares can move back to Adam and then we can basically get repaid. And then thirdly is we’re paying him a consulting fee. SoftBank is paying them a consulting fee for two different reasons.
One is, Adam had voting rights of 10 to 1, meaning Adam could do whatever he wanted. He had total autonomy for good or for bad, to do anything that he wanted, and Adam has agreed to relinquish all his votes in favor of the board. He has relinquished being the chairman. And he has relinquished even being in the board of directors. He will now only be an observer with basically no voting rights. And that has a price and we thought that’s going to be a great investment to basically put the company back into our hands for us to be able to run it without having somebody with a gun, always basically voting shares 10 to 1. That’s one side. The other side, I’d be foolish if I wouldn’t consult with Adam. There’s a lot of learning in some nine years. Sure, there’s a lot of bad things and trust and all the things you’ve said, but God, the amount of buildings that he have chosen, these amazing locations that you have around the world, the braveness in which you have basically gone and become one of the fastest global expansion companies.
I have a lot to learn on one side of Adam and I do plan to use him, but he’ll be Adam with me, and me with you. So Adam is not going to have any role in the company, he’s not going to be in the board of directors, but I do plan to use some of his knowledge.
So to summarize, he has the ability to sell as many shares as he decides to do. It’s a loan, it gets paid back, so it’s not $1.7 billion. And we pay him a four-year consulting fee in exchange for getting a lot of his rights, getting some of his brains and to be fair, to be signing a noncompete that I still don’t understand how a company would not make him have sign a noncompete in the past. To be as transparent as it is, I’d like to put the Adam story behind us, the payout. Right. And I do understand how, it’s tough, it feels, but if I had to do it, I will do it all over again because this gives us the right to run the company without any intervention. And I think it was the right decision to do. (audience applause)
Hello. Hi Marcelo, my name is [redacted] I work in Development. I know you said it’s day one, so maybe you don’t have an answer to that, but right off the bat, do you have anything in your head about what part of WeWork or the We company are already going away? And what’s your thought about construction and development? The future of WeWork having an inside GC and all these owners’ rep and all of us. What’s your thoughts about it?
Yeah, I’m going to have my first construction meeting later today. I truly don’t have, I’ll be ignorant if I were to answer a question like this without having the facts. But we’re fast decision makers, we’re fast learners. My first meeting, I spent some time Sunday working hours with a small team of WeWork just learning. Miguel was nice enough to almost spend the night work together and at midnight yesterday I was understanding the culture and all the parts of WeWork. I’m going to learn fast, but it’s not my decision, we’re going to have a management team and we’re going to have very honest discussion in terms of should we really be in the construction business or not. So I really don’t have a clear answer to give you, but what I do promise is whatever, we’re going to make fast decisions to identify what we’re good at and what we’re not good at and what we have to stay in and what we have to get out of. Thank you. Should we take one more? I think there is, let’s do one, two, and then you can finish with the audience.
Hi, my name is [redacted]. I’ve been with WeWork for about three-and-a-half years with the real estate team. My question is directed to the types of decisions we make as a business as we’re now evolving into a more mature company. We’ve done a really great job of recruiting excellent talent all around the world and we’ve made some decisions for the sake of speed that might not have been the decisions we would make today. How would you recommend we change the culture of our company to start making those adult decisions even when they’re not fun for the sake of profitability and expansion?
It all starts with the plan. I need to start with having an empowered leadership team that can make the right decisions. We’re going to switch from this being a one-man show that made every decision to actually having a model where leaders are empowered, but more importantly are held accountable to deliver the results. … And you’ll find it’s such an amazing world when you’re empowered, when you actually take the responsibility, you will make a decision differently. When you’re treated with empowerment, when every dollar you spend, you spend it like if it was your own money. When nobody’s empowered and clear lines of responsibility or accountability are not clear, then terrible decisions get made, because nobody owns to decision. And that’s one thing that I’m incredibly strict about and that is holding people accountable for investments that they decide that they’re going to do. We will always trust our leaders, but they got to deliver results and we’re going to be a culture of performance, empowerment, and execution.
There is one more over there or have you realized that most of the questions are being made by women, who are totally brave?
Hi Marcelo, I’m [redacted]. So I love, lately there’s been a lot of conversation about how great community is and so much wonderful thoughts and talk. It’s also a really hard job. I don’t think it needs to be, but our buildings have a ton of defects, which is really just a result of the speed. So we constantly are trying to cut op-ex. How can we open buildings cheaper, which is awesome. But really all we do is just pay for it in cap-ex, we pay for it in discounts, we pay for it in refunds. So my question is, when you’re doing these, you know, tough decisions for layoffs, will you be taking into account that we do need to keep a lot of people on to fix the defects?
Yeah, thanks for the advice. Again, great companies are built on great products. You cannot offer a crappy product and expect to win. I’ve learned that myself in my last job. So we’re going to be maniacally crazy focused to make sure that the experience that we offer to our members is second to none. Right, we have this leadership among any other company, but if your product is not great, you will lose that leadership fast and that we at the end of the day, we’re here to provide incredible member experiences. And for that we’ve got to make sure that the product is incredible and for that our building needs to be great and we should eliminate defects as they come. So I’ll take that into consideration as we meet with the management team. Thank you.
Hi there. Actually I think there’s one more before the last one.
So I think what’s really wonderful is we’ve heard from a variety of employees that have been here from three-and-a-half years to a month and I’m sure it’s on a lot of people’s minds and they haven’t asked you yet, but what are you going to do to help employees be made whole from their equity and help them participate in the tender offer if they’re underwater?
Good question. I’m amazed how long it took to get there. (audience laughs) Thank you because that is a really valid question. Too early to tell, but what I can commit is that I’m going to look at what is going to be the financial burden of basically readjusting the price of the equity or the option that employees have in the company to make sure we can all share in the options of the company with no more crazy valuations. Give me a couple of weeks. I cannot commit to something where I don’t know the entire, the potential financial implications, but if you have options that are underwater or that we know is going to take many years to get back, they’re worthless and nobody should have a worthless options when we are, think of this as a day that’s a new day, is a start over and I’m going to look at the compensation that we have set up as a company. I’m going to work with the HR team to make sure that we do something in this standard.
Now, there’s conflicts, there’s shareholders … So I have to figure out how I get it done, but that will be one of my assignments to show you that we’re committed to having happy employees everywhere in the world. So you have my commitment to do something. Don’t know what it is yet and hopefully meet your expectations.
You can clap. It’s okay.
In your new role, people are also asking about Artie and Sebastian and the role that they’ll have as our CEOs.
Yeah. I mean, Artie and Sebastian are the CEOs of the company, right? I mean, I’m an active executive chairman for the time being and but we’re going to work as a team, not only with Artie, Sebastian, but with all the members of the management team. There’s so much to do. There are companies in which you say, “Hey, I am the CEO so get out my way.” I think that will be foolish. There’s so much stuff we have to do. There’s so much we have to fix. I was able to meet with Sebastian just for a few, what, 45 minutes yesterday and the list keeps on going and going on the stuff that we got to do.
I’m a big believer in divide and conquer. Each one has his role and we’re going to divide responsibilities to make sure we tackle all the priorities that we have for the time being. So not clear. Let’s also be honest, the co-CEO thing, it’s an awkward situation. I mean, fair enough though, not too many companies have it. (audience laughs) A few have made it work, a few have failed. So we’re going to have honest discussions with Artie with Sebastian, and I think more importantly, to figure out what is the right way to make this work. I’m behind Artie and Sebastian, there’s something, an incredible management team. I was blown away. We had a good meeting before this in which little by little people started expressing the issues that we have. And I think there’s just so much to do. I’m not here to control anybody. I’m here to contribute and hopefully you’ll take that from today’s meeting. So thank you for giving me your time and I look forward to doing great things together. Thank you.