Review of Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork by Reeves Wiedemann Rating ****
Billion Dollar Loser is a story about hubris and excess. It is a cautionary tale of what can happen when an unproven idea receives more attention than it deserves.
I am a fan of risk-takers. In the case of Adam Neumann, he was a risk-taker but with other people’s money. The whole idea behind WeWork seems a bit lame – building a physical, social network. There isn’t anything unique or disrupting behind renting out office space with a few design tweaks. Uber was a disrupter. They built something that completely changed the way people move from place to place. The only thing Adam Neumann made was a trail of losses.
Having a flamboyant style is one thing. But giving the guy free rein on billions of dollars of capital wasn’t very smart. Neumann was a fast talker who convinced well-heeled investors to invest millions of dollars, which Neumann quickly put to work overpaying for properties, giving away rent to stifle competition, and paying exorbitant amounts for businesses that never panned out.
Along the way, he enriched himself, cashing out his shares for millions of dollars while his employees got little to nothing. Once it became clear that Adam Nuemamm had to go, he walked away with over 400 million dollars, an amount that has grown to nearly a billion dollars after lawsuits.
I give the author credit for unraveling the story of WeWork, but I grew tired of reading about Neumann’s many homes and his wife’s vanity projects. The only good thing about this story is that everyday investors didn’t get caught up in the hype. The losses went to the wealthy early investors who fell for the sales pitch and didn’t take the time to look behind the curtain.