New York entrepreneur has big plans to turn his office rental business into a provider of homes, leisure and education
Adam Neumann is not satisfied with changing the way 210,000 people work and turning himself into a paper multi-billionaire in the process. Neumann, the 38-year-old co-founder and chief executive of shared office provider WeWork, wants to house, teach, train and party with the “WeGeneration”.
In less than eight years, Neumann, a dyslexic who could not read until he was seven, has turned an idea for a single “eco-friendly co-working space” in Brooklyn into a $20bn (£14bn) company which runs 230 shared office spaces in 71 cities .
The company, which is marketed with the tagline “Do What You Love” and offers its “members” free artisan coffee, grapefruit-infused water and a choice of craft beers, has risen to become London’s biggest office occupier.
WeWork has taken space in 21 office buildings in the capital, including eight floors of a block in Moorgate with space for more than 3,000 workers, two buildings in the heart of Soho and an outpost in London Fields which it describes as the “epicentre of east London’s creative hotbed”.
The company, which was founded by Neumann and his friend Miguel McKelvey in 2010, occupies more than 2.5m sq ft of space in London according to research by Savills, the property consultant. It has opened an office in Manchester and has plans for another in the city, and it is also scouting for locations in Birmingham, Edinburgh and other UK cities.
WeWork owns a small fraction of its estate, instead renting space from traditional landlords which it breaks into smaller offices and communal shared desks. In spite of having very few physical assets, WeWork has attracted investment from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Japan’s SoftBank, which invested $4.4bn last year, valuing WeWork at $20bn.
Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of SoftBank and Japan’s richest man, said his investment would be “cheap” if WeWork continued its exponential growth, adding the firm could be “worth a few hundred billion dollars”. The investment valued Neumann’s remaining stake in the privately held company at about $2.5bn.
WeWork will open another 13 locations in London by the end of 2018, including the whole of an office block opposite the Bank of England. For £650 a month, WeWork tenants will be granted access to their desks in One Poultry via the building’s grand staircase which is inspired by the Scala Regia steps entrance to the Vatican.
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