WeWork’s parent company is revealing more of its initial public offering plans, saying it expects to list shares on the Nasdaq.
The company also announced corporate governance changes in response to market feedback, including limiting the role of the founder’s family on its board of directors.
The We Co. disclosed the information in a regulatory filing on Friday.
Founded as a co-working space in Manhattan in 2010, WeWork has grown to become among the biggest corporate landlords in some cities. It mostly makes money by renting buildings and dividing them into office spaces to sublet to members.
WeWork, whose IPO is expected this month, will be the latest money-losing enterprise to test its luck on the stock market this year, following Uber and Lyft. The company’s revenue has more than doubled annually over the last few years, but its losses have grown just as quickly. Last year it lost $1.61 billion while bringing in $1.82 billion in revenue.
A recent filing shows the company on track for another year of impressive growth, having generated $1.54 billion in the first half of 2019. But it also lost $689.7 million in that same period.
Aside from subletting space, WeWork has branched out widely, from acquiring a marketing software company to launching a business-focused school for children and buying a large stake in a wave pool company. It has cast itself as transformative force, changing the way people work and live. The company is one of the most highly valued privately held companies in the world, at $47 billion.
In its plans to go public, WeWork previously outlined a number of risks. It warned that because it has been spending so heavily to grow its business, the company may be unable to achieve profitability. WeWork said it expects to expand aggressively in its existing cities and launch in up to 169 additional cities.
Other risks have to do with its unconventional CEO and co-founder, Adam Neumann, who stirred controversy with his investments in real estate entities that lease to WeWork, setting up potential conflicts of interests.
Also, Neumann has no employment contract with his company and if he ends up leaving his post as CEO, it could hurt the business because he has been critical to setting the company’s vision.
We said Friday that it will appoint two directors, including a lead independent board member, within the next year and that no member of Neumann’s family will sit on the board. Earlier this month it agreed to appoint the first female director — Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School — to its board when the IPO is complete after facing backlash.
The New York company said its board will have the power to remove Neumann as CEO and will act as a group to appoint a successor, instead of relying on a board committee.
The company further warned investors that Neumann gave media interviews earlier this year that potentially violated Securities and Exchange Commission protocols about respecting a “quiet period” ahead of IPOs. WeWork had filed confidentially for an IPO in December 2018.
WeWork indicated that it’s organizing its shares in such a way that Neumann will control a majority of the voting power, giving him the ability to dictate the outcome of major decisions.
Benchmark, J.P Morgan and Softbank also were listed as major stockholders that own more than 5% of the company, along with We Holdings, which is also controlled by Neumann.
Investors are often wary of companies that place so much power in the hands of one executive or founder. But defenders of the practice say it can help the company stick to its long-term vision and shield the company from the short-term goals of Wall Street.
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