Google the phrase “WeWork going public” and among the questions that pop up are: “When did WeWork go public?”
The answer is, it never really did. But late next month, retail investors will finally have the chance to own a piece of the co-working giant.
The news, like the announcement six months ago about its SPAC merger, comes with far less fanfare and controversy than WeWork’s initial bid to become a public company. Two years ago, under then-CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann, the firm prompted a business drama of the first order by unveiling plans for an IPO and then nearly collapsing in the span of a few months.
The firm’s rise to a $47 billion valuation (by its star-struck private investors, in any case) on the charismatic Neumann’s promise of revolutionizing office work with shared spaces, followed by a stunning fall, prompted books, a documentary and thousands of stories that evolved from breathless to smug.
When the smoke cleared, the self-dealing and swashbuckling Neumann had been bought out for an ungodly sum by chastened main investor SoftBank and replaced by Sandeep Mathrani, who set about stabilizing the once high-flying firm before it burned bridges the way it had burned cash. Still, it lost about $3 billion last year and would have ceased to exist if SoftBank had not bailed out its wayward son with cash infusions.
Given the mess he inherited — and the onset of the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu a century ago — the turnaround under Mathrani has gone as well as the company could have expected.
To go public, WeWork will merge with BowX Acquisition Corp. The special purpose acquisition company was formed by the venture fund Bow Capital’s management team, including Vivek Ranadivé and Murray Rode. BowX stockholders will meet Oct. 19 to approve the merger.
If they do, the deal would close on Oct. 21 and the combined entity would trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “WE.”
The deal is valued at $9 billion and will provide WeWork with $1.3 billion in cash. The company said it will use the money to fund future growth plans. The planned merger already has the approval of WeWork and BowX’s boards of directors.
BowX shares were trading at $9.74 when its future as WeWork was revealed. It traded as high as $13.93 in early April but has since slipped, closing at $9.99 Monday. Its market capitalization is about $603 million.