The Real Deal New York

Finally, some good press for WeWork

Co-founder Adam Neumann named #1 in Fortune’s 40 under 40

September 24, 2015 05:03PM
By Konrad Putzier

From left: Adam Neumann and a unicorn (the term for startups that reach a $1 billion valuation)

From left: Adam Neumann and a unicorn (the term for startups that reach a $1 billion valuation)

Keg party at 222 Broadway, everyone! Fortune magazine placed WeWork’s co-founder Adam Neumann atop its ranking of business leaders under the age of 40, ending a remarkable string of bad press for the shared-office company.

The last few weeks weren’t easy for WeWork, a company famous for making shared offices mainstream and supplying them with craft-brew kegs.

On Aug. 31, news outlet the Information reported the company’s long-term finances may be in peril. Then, the New York Times published a lengthy report on its struggles with labor unions that put the firm in a questionable light and portrayed its co-founder Adam Neumann as detached and aloof. And to cap it all off, WeWork’s co-head of real estate Todd Bassen left the firm after a mere three months on the job. For a firm that received plenty of praise over the past few years, this was an unwelcome change.

But this morning, that run finally ended. Fortune pointed to WeWork’s $1 billion in venture funding and $10 billion valuation, which it reached in June. It also mentioned the labor dispute as a reason to rank Neumann number one. WeWork responded to a strike by its contractor’s janitorial staff  “by doing what its peers have been loathe to do: it hired an in-house janitorial staff as full-time employees, with benefits including equity,” Fortune wrote.

Creator, the WeWork’s in-house blog, published the news atop its morning newsletter. The post’s sub-headline was “’Can we change the world?’ is the question the CEO has asked since the company launched in 2010,” apparently implying Fortune magazine had just single-handedly answered that question with yes.

WeWork, founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2010, has grown to more than a dozen locations in New York City and recently signed its first leases in Queens. The firm leases office space from landlords and then effectively sublets rooms or desks on a short-term basis to its paying customers, or “members.”

If you’re thinking “how is Neumann ranked ahead of Uber’s Travis Kalanick or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg,” well, it turns out Fortune has an interesting methodology. All 40 individuals are new to the list – meaning anyone from last year’s ranking fell out of this year’s by default. Still, Neumann ranks ahead of some fairly big names, such as the co-founders of Lyft (ranked 3rd) and Taylor Swift (6th).

Jared Kushner (34), head of Kushner Properties and son-in-law of Donald Trump, is also on the list, ranked 25th. Fortune points to the $2 billion worth of deals he did in 2014 and 12,000 apartments he bought in prior years, “moves that look all the wiser as Big Apple property valuations remain hotter than Kushner’s beloved New York Mets.”