Neumann envisioned WeWork as a multigenerational family dynasty that would keep close control of the company for hundreds of years. He explained his vision to staff at WeWork’s Global Summit, an all-hands meeting in Los Angeles in January, according to a video clip reviewed by Business Insider.
The source who provided the video is not authorized to speak to the media but said the remarks were so standard for the unconventional founder that staff did not react.
In the video, Neumann appears to respond to a question about WeWork’s investors.
“WeWork is a controlled company. People don’t know that,” he tells the audience. “I, Adam, and my family control the company 100% — very rare when you have investors. It’s not the truth of any company in the world. Google still has it a little bit. Facebook and Mark [Zuckerberg] already lost it. No other company else has it.”
The Neumanns made some plans that hinted at how they would keep this control. WeWork’s original August filing to go public said Adam Neumann received 20 votes per share of his stock, an unusual structure even by Silicon Valley standards.
And if something were to happen to him, his wife, Rebekah Neumann, would play a major role in succession planning. If Adam were permanently disabled or died in the decade following the initial public offering, Rebekah would be one of a two- or three-member committee to select the new CEO. If both Rebekah and Adam were unable to participate in the selection, the trustee of their estate would step into Rebekah’s shoes.
In subsequent filings, WeWork reduced Adam Neumann’s voting power and barred Neumann family members from the board. A representative for Neumann couldn’t be reached for comment.
He said he didn’t expect his children to be future WeWork CEOs, as he was before his ouster last month. Neumann added that he worried that his children wouldn’t “earn” leadership and that he would prefer a leader who “grew from the bottom.”
Even if the Neumann children didn’t lead the company, he still thought they would be involved.
“They don’t have to run the company, but they do have to stay the moral compass of the company,” he said. “If we do this right, over the years different CEOs will come, but we will keep an eye on these basic values and basic moral standards and not allow them to shift.”
Neumann intended this plan to work for the long term.
“It’s important that one day, maybe in 100 years, maybe in 300 years, a great-great-granddaughter of mine will walk into that room and say, ‘Hey, you don’t know me; I actually control the place. The way you’re acting is not how we built it,'” he said.
Adam Neumann was replaced last month with two co-CEOs after a tumultuous lead-up to an IPO that was ultimately shelved. Investors cited several concerns with his leadership, including conflicts of interest with his family. Rebekah Neumann, who was credited as a cofounder and led WeGrow, also stepped back from her roles.