Who doesn't like watching a tell-all TV series about greedy narcissists who thought they had it made, only to watch them fall? If you share this guilty pleasure and you eat, breathe, and invest in real estate, you'll want to watch Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) TV's limited series WeCrashed about WeWork and the fall of founder Adam Neumann, a man who reportedly has plans to be president someday (of the world, that is).
Oscar winners Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway play Neumann and his wife, Rebekah, in this original show based on the Wondery podcast "WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork." The release date has yet to be set at the time of this writing, but Apple TV is betting this series will earn it a top spot in the crowded streaming market.
If a company's mission is to "elevate the world's consciousness," any investor should be seeing some red flags (while rolling their eyes). In the case of WeWork, this grandiose mission statement served as a sneak preview of what was ahead.
WeWork was a business that rented discount office space. It billed itself as a tech company, though, and its hook was selling memberships called "space-as-a-service" instead of offering traditional leases. It might have provided a nicer office experience than the local coffee shop, but elevating the world's consciousness? Kind of a stretch.
WeWork was quite popular for a while. It launched in 2010, and by 2019 it had 253 locations in 22 countries. Investors were impressed, buying what Neumann was selling, namely a community atmosphere with a hip vibe for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Many questioned whether WeWork was really a tech company, but people went with it. WeWork was a unicorn (and it served kombucha on tap). Not only that, but WeWork came up with elaborate promises: The company could one day operate schools and micro-apartments in addition to office space and could one day rule the world. (Well, maybe not that last one, but that was the attitude.)
The personalities: good for TV
Having a visionary heading a company can lead to greatness: Think Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and Elon Musk. But it can also lead to recklessness from overestimating a business's worth too early: Think Adam Neumann.
Soon after filing initial public offering (IPO) documents, the company started having trouble, and its valuation plummeted by more than half, from a high of $47 billion. It should come as no surprise to the folks who understood Neumann that his predictions of a $3 trillion market were way too optimistic for a shared office space business.
To get that big number ($3 trillion), Neumann counted every worker with a desk as a potential customer, which some might see as a tad bold. And not only that, Neumann partied hard. He favored tequila and weed, making shots and a toke part of the company bro, frat-boy culture.
After watching Neumann burn through the billions the company was taking in, not to mention his wild antics, investors forced him out. Major investor SoftBank Group (OTC: SFTBY) now owns WeWork, but SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son feels "foolish" about his company's huge investment.
The Millionacres bottom line
The series "WeCrashed" sounds like it will have it all: greed, narcissism, pettiness, money, drugs, and -- for all of us real estate investors and landlords -- some business drama, too. Bring on the popcorn.