The We Company, beleaguered parent of the short-term real estate property management and development company WeWork and other We-related subsidiaries, has issued a statement that says it “expects” to complete its initial public offering by the end of the year. The note all but confirms that the company is indeed delaying its IPO roadshow, which had been expected to commence this week.
“The We Company is looking forward to our upcoming IPO, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year,” the statement notes. “We want to thank all of our employees, members and partners for their ongoing commitment.”
We’s plans for a $20 billion public offering have been hampered by questions about its corporate governance and the ultimate value of a company that private investors, through multiple rounds of funding, once thought was worth nearly $50 billion.
But under the scrutinizing spotlight of the IPO process, investors have been publicly and privately balking at that sky-high valuation and the company’s questionable governance practices under chief executive officer and co-founder, Adam Neumann, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news that The We Company would put its offering on hold.
Over the past few weeks, The We Company — which has expanded to include a boutique hotel operation, members-only financial services and a charter yacht service (!) — has made several moves to allay investors’ concerns. The company unwound some particularly egregious transactions with Neumann and added new directors. It also moved to limit Neumann’s power at the company.
And last week, the company amended its prospectus to include the appointment of an independent lead director. It also slashed the strength of Class B and Class C shares so Neumann would not have 20 times the voting power of other shareholders, and removed Neumann’s wife from succession planning at the company. And then SoftBank, to shore up the IPO value, reportedly was prepared to buy at least $750 million in additional shares in the process.
But eve all these drastic steps were not enough to comfort Wall Street investors. Not even the attempts to slash the company’s valuation to below $10 billion could attract enough investor interest to the public offering. And the opacity of The We Company’s reporting and metrics likely did nothing to help matters in the eyes of the investing public.
Now, with the We Company delaying its listing, and with Uber and Lyft solidly underperforming in their first year as public companies, we may finally be reaching a long-awaited moment of reckoning.
After years of rapid value growth in the tech world, spurred in part by venture capital firms placing sky-high valuations on their portfolio companies as ever-more cash was piled into them, perhaps the tsunami has finally hit land. If so, it’s not going to be pretty and there may be more to come. Perhaps it’s time to relearn the lesson that greed may not actually be good.