WeWork co-founder and former Chief Executive Adam Neumann is set to reap an extra $50 million windfall and other benefits as part of an agreement that would settle a bitter dispute he and other early investors in the shared-office-space provider have waged with SoftBank Group Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.
As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, the parties are closing in on a deal in which SoftBank, WeWork’s majority shareholder, would buy about $1.5 billion of stock from other investors, including nearly $500 million from Mr. Neumann. That is about half as much as it previously planned to buy.
But part of the deal not previously reported sets Mr. Neumann apart from other shareholders. It calls for SoftBank to give the 41-year-old the $50 million special payout and extend by five years a $430 million loan it made to him in late 2019, the people said. SoftBank is also slated to pay $50 million for Mr. Neumann’s legal fees. It isn’t clear how much it is paying for the other shareholders’ legal fees.
The settlement between SoftBank, Mr. Neumann and the other shareholders isn’t final and the terms could still change, the people cautioned. Should the parties reach agreement, potentially in the next few days, it would avert an early-March trial.
WeWork is separately negotiating a combination with a special-purpose acquisition company called BowX Acquisition Corp. that would provide the startup with a public listing, people familiar with the discussions said. While the talks could still fall apart and other options are being considered, WeWork and BowX could reach agreement as soon as next week, some of the people said.
The monthslong legal skirmish centers around a commitment SoftBank made in October 2019 to buy $3 billion of stock from existing WeWork shareholders, including nearly $1 billion from Mr. Neumann. SoftBank, which was bailing out a teetering WeWork after its planned IPO collapsed, also agreed to pay a four-year, $185 million consulting fee to Mr. Neumann, who agreed to step down as chairman and CEO. In addition, it lent him nearly $500 million to refinance another loan.
The extra payment to Mr. Neumann could reopen old wounds with WeWork employees and investors, who were furious when the $185 million payout became public.
Employees to whom Mr. Neumann had long preached a “we over me” ethos were stunned by the contrast between his exit package and their personal financial situation. Most had stock options that had become virtually worthless as the value of WeWork plunged to around $8 billion from $47 billion.
Mr. Neumann never received the full amount of the consulting contract, the people said: SoftBank paid him around $130 million before stopping payment amid the legal fight.
Last April, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the U.S., SoftBank declined to go ahead with the $3 billion payment. It cited terms of the deal that it said hadn’t been completed, including the restructuring of a subsidiary in China. WeWork shareholders, represented by early WeWork investors on the board, and Mr. Neumann filed separate lawsuits, and the sides traded legal motions over much of the past year.
The nearly $500 million in stock Mr. Neumann is set to sell represents about 25% of his holdings. The per-share price he is getting is about the same as in the earlier agreement, people familiar with the matter said.