This week, we speak with New York Times business reporter Maureen Farrell, who co-authored the 2021 book “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion“ along with Eliot Brown. Before joining the New York Times, Farrell spent nearly 10 years at the Wall Street Journal, where she covered WeWork and other start-ups.
Farrell discusses how even as early as 2014, WeWork’s valuation was wildly excessive relative to other real estate plays. This was not a Madoff or even a Theranos situation, but rather, a case of VCs and outside investors ignoring some of the worst corporate governance issues of a start-up. She explains how every step of the way, sophisticated investors missed a lot of red flags because the potential was so great.
As it turns out, founder/CEO Adam Neumann managed to captivate the imaginations of investors and VCs. He excelled at raising capital, captivating experienced investors with his vision of a globally transformative company. Younger analysts at various VCs and banks focused on the massive losses of the start-up, while senior partners and executives were hypnotized by the fantastical growth rate and Neumann’s convincing tales.
You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.
Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Michael Mauboussin, who runs consilient research at Morgan Stanley’s buyside firm, Counterpoint Global. Mauboussin (and his co-author, Alfred Rappaport ) revise and update their book Expectations Investing: Reading Stock Prices for Better Returns.
Maureen Farrell’s Book
The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell
Maureen Farrell’s Favortie Books
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe