WeWork CEO Adam Neumann promised his employees and investors the world. But he wanted more.
That’s not an original premise, but it is the story of “WeCrashed,” the eight-part limited series about the rise and fall of the shared workspace company that premiered Friday on AppleTV+.
At the center is Neumann, played by Jared Leto, and wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway). Separately, they floundered; Neumann, an Israeli entrepreneur, bounced around starting companies that never got off the ground, while Rebekah, the cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, worked briefly on Wall Street before turning to yoga. But together, they fed off each other. He focused her, she lifted him.
The company motto, at least in “WeCrashed’s” telling, was Rebekah’s idea: to elevate the world’s consciousness.
“This was not just a guy who starts a company or meets another guy at a party and they decide to start a company and the company’s worth a billion dollars now. That’s a story, that’s fine. For us, it was really about this love story,” co-creator Lee Eisenberg told the Daily News.
“When you listen to Adam talk about Rebekah and how intrinsic these two people meeting is in the rise and ultimate fall of this company, that’s what was fascinating to us.”
Rebekah’s “yoga-babble,” as Eisenberg called it, meant little to WeWork’s investors; “elevating the world’s consciousness” doesn’t pay the bills. But it spoke to thousands of people in a gig economy who were looking for a home.
“When you combine Adam’s charisma with the millennial generation that wants so badly to believe that you can make the world a better place and get rich doing it, I think they were kind of made for each other, unfortunately,” co-creator Drew Crevello told The News.
WeWork was a unicorn, in the strictly financial sense: a startup company valued at more than $1 billion. Before WeWork there was Airbnb, Instacart and Pinterest. At its peak, WeWork was, on paper, worth $47 billion.
Eisenberg and Crevello know the comparisons to “Super Pumped,” about the ousting of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and “The Dropout,” tracking the downfall of Theranos and founder Elizabeth Holmes, are inevitable. Silicon Valley scammers are having a moment. But they put WeWork in a different category.
“It really is an Icarus story of flying too close to the sun,” Crevello said.
WeWork expanded into too many cities and countries, into too many markets, including Rebekah’s private school, WeGrow. They hired too many employees, promised too many stock options, threw too many parties.
“They were spending more money than they made, which is not a great business model. Basically the business model then became, ‘Well, we just need to keep raising money,’” Eisenberg said.
Eventually, Neumann spent too much even for his investors. The sexual harassment lawsuit, filed by a former employee, didn’t help, nor did alleged drug use. In September 2019, he stepped down as CEO, facing pressure from his board, which was still trying to forge ahead to an IPO. When the company finally went public through a merger in October 2021, it was valued at about $9 million.
At last count, Neumann was worth about $1.6 billion.
Eisenberg and Crevello said the modern company tells a tale as old as time: people wanting more than they have.
“History keeps repeating itself,” Eisenberg said. “It’s the detailing and the characters at the center of it that make it unique, but unicorns have existed since civilization began.”
“Somewhere out there,” Crevello interrupted, “a horse is growing a horn as we speak.”