Back in August, Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, published a scathing critique of WeWork and its enablers on his website, No Mercy/No Malice. Titled “WeWTF,” Galloway called WeWork’s $47 billion valuation “insane,” “seriously loco,” and “an illusion.” In September, he wrote a follow-up (“WeWTF, Part Deux”) after the company postponed its long-awaited IPO. “The lines between vision, bullsh*t, and fraud are pretty narrow,” he wrote. “Something is wrong. Something stinks. Something … Just. Doesn’t. Add. Up.”
Galloway’s posts seem exceptionally prescient given the events of the past two weeks. Last week, WeWork CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann was forced to step down after the company’s valuation dropped at least $30 billion in a matter of days. And on Monday, WeWork officially pulled its IPO. Galloway says the company is in triage and that a great WeWork unraveling, the effects of which will be felt for years, is only beginning.
What is the biggest takeaway from the WeWork story?
The bigger story here is SoftBank. WeWork is the opportunistic infection that is going to kill the Vision One Fund. It’s beyond repair. Between Uber and WeWork, you have $20 billion of the hundred billion. One is likely going to be a zero — that’s WeWork — of $11 billion. So it’s hard to imagine they’re even going to get their investors their principal back. WeWork is ground zero. If the only way it can survive is a deliberate strategy to make it a shadow of itself — massive layoffs, massive restructuring — there’s only thing they can do. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs? These guys were about to collect $130 million in fees and then prop up some equity analysts to tell their private-wealth managers in the marketplace that this thing was $40 billion to $60 billion. And according to Goldman, it was worth $60 billion to $90 billion! What does that say about them? What happens to the New York and Chicago commercial-real-estate markets where WeWork was the biggest and the second-biggest tenants? What happens to IPOs? The reverberations here are going to be pretty dramatic. WeWork declined in value more in 30 days — SoftBank and all these smart people had their shares on their books at $47 billion — it went to zero in 30 days. That’s more value destruction than the three biggest losers in the S&P 500 lost all year. Macy’s, Nektar Therapeutics, and Kraft Heinz. The three worst performing stocks in the S&P 500 this year, their value destruction pales in comparison to the value destruction of WeWork.
But there is a silver lining. The marketplace stepped in. The mandatory disclosure that the SEC requires in the form of S-1. The autopsy here will reflect death by S-1. Then, media and academics read the S-1 and started applying this incredibly prescient competence called math.