Adam Newman came at the right time: at the tail of the Great Recession when everyone wanted to be an entrepreneur and office space was cheap.
After immigrating from Israel to New York City in 2001, he tried his hand at crawlers—a line of children’s clothing with padded knees—that flopped. When he co-founded the shared-workspace company WeWork three years later, it was with some of the $1 million marriage he and wife Rebekah received from their Long Island parents.
But Adam, now 42, was never a nose-to-mouth for the grindstone man. As co-authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell reveal in the book “The Cult of Us: WeWork, Adam Newman, and the Great Startup Illusion“(Crown), on Tuesday, the expensive shortcut appealed to Adam.
For example, he became obsessed with surfing, but had trouble reaching the big waves. “The way I surf, I don’t have time for paddling,” he told a colleague. Instead, he would jump on a chauffeured jet ski. As the book says, “Most surfers believe [this] To deceive—like a climber boarding a helicopter and climbing to the top.”
Some surf spots in Hawaii even forbid the practice, but Adam would hire a local surf coach who knew how to skirt the rules.
In the book, Newman is depicted as a pair of Marie Antoinette-like figures: living it up – partying on private jets, spending money like water and leaving the staff to clean up their messes – while their world is theirs. It was starting to crumble all around.
WeWork was founded in 2010 and thrived as a hot commodity before becoming a disappointing money suck for investors. Its CEO, WeWork, fell into disrepair by 2019, amid missed opportunities and Adam’s erratic behavior.
The book is filled with stories of his astounding managerial style.
Senior WeWork executives requesting an in-person meeting may be asked to fly from New York to San Francisco with Adam at a moment’s notice. But then he would make them wait for hours, drop them off before reaching the airport or have no time to talk to them on a six and a half hour flight.
Sometimes he would drop them upon landing, leaving the staff to find their way home. This reflects their behavior on the ground as well. Adam would meet with employees and even interview potential employees while he was riding in his Maybach, a superluxury car that cost more than $200,000—then, when he was done, he was given Ask to get out and ride in a separate “chase car” in your convoy.
According to the book, “an executive was shown the door in the middle of gridlocked traffic on the Long Island Expressway—instructed to find a chasing car somewhere behind them in traffic.”
In 2018, he got a taste of his own medicine.
For a personal trip to Israel, Adam borrowed a G650ER plane from Gulfstream as he awaits delivery of a WeWork private jet. After landing, the crew found a cereal box filled with marijuana in a closet, which was probably on its way home.
As the authors write, “It was one thing to have smoking on board, but transporting marijuana—an illegal drug in New York and Israel—across borders … could expose the Gulfstream to serious risks.”
Gulfstream pulls the jet, leaving Adam and his friends to find their way home.
Adam and his companions were notorious among private jet crews. After a chartered trip to Mexico City in 2015, the operator of Gamma Aviation complained to WeWork that “passengers were spitting tequila at each other”; One passenger got sick “all over the cabin and toilet”, which required additional cleaning; And that “the crew was not tipped.”
Vistajet, the authors write, was often forced to party on Adam’s ship: taking the jet out of service to clean up spills and vomit. On several occasions the CEO or one of his associates broke the curtain divider.
On one Adam flight, there was so much marijuana smoke in the cabin that the crew felt the need to don oxygen masks.
Back on the land, Adam’s wife, Rebekah, now 43, was telling interviewers that the couple “believe in this new ‘asset light’ lifestyle.”
It was a very rich statement.
Upon purchasing a $15 million Tudor-style home in Pound Ridge, NY, Newman added 2,000 square feet to the existing 13,000 and reduced nine bedrooms to five supersized ones. At the WeWork headquarters on Eighteenth Street, near Sixth Avenue, Adam had a secret exit, an “ice plunge”—a metal tub filled with ice water that stood to refresh one’s feet—and a “smoking dinner.” the one” installed. According to the book, a high-powered HVAC vent typically used to keep the air clear in cigar bars, Newman’s smoker was for marijuana.
It seemed like a fancy contraption for a man who, during meetings, would sometimes end up licking the plate clean, having a meal prepared by his personal chef.
When Newman paid $34 million for a complex of apartments at Irving Place, a change was inevitable. They added the fifth, sixth and seventh floors, demolishing the interior walls on one floor to create a luxurious master bedroom. (Buying so many units gave the couple control of the building’s condo board, which means there’s no stopping for renovations.)
But it was nothing but his most wanted adaptation.
Rebekah was afraid of a 5G cellular antenna next to her apartment – she feared the electromagnetism from it could cause cancer. His brother died of cancer at the age of 23, as did other close relatives, including his uncle Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth Paltrow’s father). Despite there being little scientific research to back up concerns about 5G technology, Rebekah was adamant: The antenna had to go.
First, WeWork’s CFO Artie Minson, who previously worked at Time Warner Cable, was asked to persuade Verizon or Sprint to find a new home for the antenna—despite it going for an IPO. Was busy preparing WeWork. Minson was not far away, so other people were included in the organization.
In the end, it came down to WeWork’s top public affairs and policy executive, Maria Comella. She has been the Chief of Staff of Government Cuomo and an aide to Chris Christie. But in the spring of 2018, he was tasked with calling phone companies and making a request to his boss and his wife: Please move this antenna.
“We understand that Newman has reached a point where he has found a way to buy out the lease of the cell carrier and will be able to take it down,” co-author Eliot Brown told The Post. “But it turned out okay because things were bursting [at WeWork]. To the best of our knowledge, it didn’t come down to this. “
Meanwhile, Rebekah was not happy with the education of her five children. So in 2017, she and Adam created their own elementary school: WeGrow was housed in the WeWork offices in Chelsea. The curriculum included regular jaunts to the Newmans Pound Ridge Home, where students selected produce and learned about farming. Tuition went up to $42,000.
But once again, Newman treated his employees like serfs. Teachers will return on Monday to find trash on the floor and chairs in the wrong rooms—all because Adam and Rebekah used them for a dinner party at school. Teachers would quickly clean up, and then, according to the book, “spend the first few days of the week scolding Newman’s kids and … their friends for following the rules about climbing. [structures] Or swinging from them. Kids would protest: ‘We were allowed to do this this weekend. Why can’t we now?'”
Rebekah will apologize, just for having it happen again. (The school closed in 2019 after a failed WeWork IPO, but Rebekah bought the rights to the course and hopes to relaunch WeGrow.)
There was one person who called BS on Adam’s pride: Elon Musk.
Adam was hungry to work with the SpaceX and Tesla chief on his plans for Mars, where Musk aspires to one day build a habitable colony. After finally securing a meeting, Musk made Adam wait for hours before giving him a few minutes to pitch his own idea for a community on the planet.
“Getting to Mars will be the easy part, says Adam” [Musk]. Building community will be difficult,” the authors write. “Musk, Adam later recalled to his staff, was not impressed and lectured Adam about how, in fact, the hard part was. Musk was an idol, yet he put Adam in his place … when Adam Talking of meeting Rebekah, he told her it was the moment of humility she probably needed.”
She had suffered a similar moment a year earlier, but it didn’t seem to distract Adam.
While in India to meet with investors about WeWork’s expansion in that country, Adam worked a little too hard the night before. The planned meeting times came and went as the staff waited in the hotel lobby for their fearless leader.
Finally, security was asked to enter the CEO’s room and check on him. Adam was cold. Missing the meeting, he instead spent the day recovering at a spa.
Things came to a head on September 22, 2019, nine months after WeWork received a valuation of $47 billion. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, which the book’s authors helped write, the company’s directors planned to suppress Adam. to resign.
Reasons cited include his drug use, cynical behavior and delays in the initial public offering of a company that burned through $2 billion in 2018 and was thriving with the help of some $12 billion in venture capital funding and loans.
A month later, Adam was out. His personal wealth fell by $10 billion, Forbes reported at $750 million. (His fortune is now estimated at over $1 billion.)
According to the authors, he received more than $192 million in cash to walk away, as well as a revised stock award of approximately $245 million and permission to sell more than $500 million in WeWork stock.
He and Rebekah sold two of their eight homes and were seen at San Francisco International Airport in December 2019 – flying commercial. But one thing hasn’t changed.
As Adam spends his days surfing in Montauk, the author writes, “His squad was mostly gone, but he was not completely alone. He was still paying someone to pull the waves on the back of a jet ski.”