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7 Times We Couldn't Believe Anyone Gave WeWork's Adam Neumann Billions Of Dollars

A head-scratching look back at Adam Neumann, who made WeWork's mission "to elevate the world’s consciousness," as he steps down as CEO.

Posted on September 24, 2019, at 3:10 p.m. ET

On Tuesday, WeWork announced that cofounder Adam Neumann would step down as CEO, and continue on as non-executive chairman of the board.

Mark Lennihan / AP

WeWork’s co-president and chief financial officer Artie Minson and vice-chairman Sebastian Gunningham have been named co-CEOs of the company.

Neumann said in a statement: "While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction, and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive. Thank you to my colleagues, our members, our landlord partners, and our investors for continuing to believe in this great business.”

WeWork delayed its IPO last week after investors expressed concern about the company's falling valuation and Neumann's leadership of the company. The We Company has never been profitable and its valuation fell to $15 billion (possibly lower) after being valued at $47 billion earlier this year.

Since the company was founded in 2010, his "over-the-top" style has drawn criticism, most recently detailed by the Wall Street Journal. Here are some of the cofounder's most WTF moments.

1. That time Neumann brought marijuana on an airplane.

Jean Baptiste Lacroix / Getty Images

According to the WSJ, "the flight crew found a sizable chunk of the drug stuffed in a cereal box for the return flight [from Israel], according to people familiar with the incident. The jet’s owner, upset and fearing repercussions of trans-border marijuana transport, recalled the plane, leaving Mr. Neumann to find his own way back to New York." The story went on to say "multiple people who have been on planes with him say he often smokes while airborne."

2. That time he had WeWork pay him $5.9 million in stock for the "We" trademark.

Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

WeWork rebranded as the We Company in January. According to CNBC, "the We Company acquired the trademark to 'We' from We Holdings LLC, an investment vehicle with Neumann and cofounder Miguel McKelvey, and in exchange received an additional stake worth about $5.9 million." Following criticism, Neumann returned the payment.

3. That time he banned meat from WeWork offices (but continued to eat meat himself).

Noam Galai

In 2018, the company banned red meat, poultry, and pork from WeWork offices to “leave a better world for future generations." According to the WSJ, "executives in New York were caught off guard. With little explanation from Mr. Neumann, a group huddled to determine a rationale — they settled on sustainability — and the mechanics of what would be banned and how. They determined employees couldn’t expense meals with meat, but they could eat it in company offices, so long as the company didn’t pay. Former employees say they have since seen Mr. Neumann eat meat."

4. All those times he made tequila a centerpiece of WeWork culture.

China Stringer Network / Reuters

According to New York magazine, "One former employee says Neumann offered her tequila during her job interview, and liquor was a constant presence at pretty much every company event, another perk for the largely millennial staff. Many employees know the name of Neumann’s favorite tequila, Don Julio 1942, and offices around the country would keep it stocked for when he came to visit."

5. That time he said he wants to live forever.

Theo Wargo

"Like some high-profile CEOs in tech, he hopes to live forever, according to three people who heard him say this, and has invested in life-extension startup Life Biosciences LLC," the WSJ reported.

6. That time he invested $13.8 million in a wave pool maker, only to write down the value of that investment to zero the following year.

Noam Galai

According to the WSJ, Neumann said "surfing creates community, the value he says is central to WeWork." New York magazine wrote in June, "Until recently, an executive conference room at WeWork headquarters was decorated with a large photograph of Neumann surfing a wave."

7. That time he repeatedly called Bloomberg reporter Ellen Huet "Amy."

Kelly Sullivan / Getty Images

Huet wrote in a story earlier this year, "As WeWork grows and changes, its CEO is learning to listen more, he says in a group interview later. 'Part of growing up is getting comfortable with the world, where people do have an opinion that might not be your opinion,' he says. 'It’s good to listen.' Then, for the third time that day — perhaps because I’ve joined the interview remotely — he calls me Amy, which is not my name. A spokesman says he regrets that."

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