Like Theranos, WeWork needed the willful credulity and capital of a lot of people at the top of the American meRiTOcrAcY to keep the grift going for as long as it did:
We Co., as the parent company is officially known, was already a distressed asset by then, undone by conflicts and the dawning realization that it was just a hip real-estate sublessor—not a tech company. A few weeks earlier, WeWork had shelved its disastrous attempt at an initial public offering and Mr. Neumann had subsequently stepped down as chief executive.
It was a spectacular fall for the company that months before had been America’s most valuable startup.
Little of WeWork’s trajectory would have been possible were it not for the collection of veteran executives and financiers from the upper echelons of Wall Street and Silicon Valley who enabled Mr. Neumann, a charismatic 40-year-old with little prior business experience.
Mr. Neumann mesmerized them with his pitch, which offered a vision for the property-leasing company as a tech startup with limitless potential to transform how people work and live.
Investors poured capital onto Mr. Neumann’s business bonfire and ceded control, rarely pushing back with any force despite mounting problems and year after year of missed projections.
Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., who helped inflate WeWork’s valuation to $47 billion, pushed an already wild-spending Mr. Neumann to act bigger and crazier. JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO James Dimon and other bankers, instead of injecting a dose of reality, spent years championing Mr. Neumann and the company as they battled for the coveted IPO assignment.
Something to remember when Dimon goes on the attack against Elizabeth Warren again…