WeWork, Ex-CEO Neumann, Softbank Sued Over Botched IPO

WeWork, Ex-CEO Neumann, Softbank Sued Over Botched IPO

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former employee accused WeWork of breaching its fiduciary duties
  • She alleges that SoftBank rescued WeWork by boosting stake to 80 percent
  • Former Chief Executive Adam Neumann is also being sued

WeWork officials, including co-founder and former Chief Executive Adam Neumann, are being sued by minority shareholders to recoup losses as the shared workspace provider pulled its initial public offering and saw its value plunge more than 87%. In a proposed class action filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court, former WeWork employee Natalie Sojka accused the company’s board of directors of breaching its fiduciary duties to minority shareholders like her.

The San Francisco resident faulted the board for letting Japan’s SoftBank Group <9984.T> rescue WeWork by boosting its stake to a potential 80 percent from 29 percent at a “fire-sale” price, and granting Neumann a $1.7 billion (£1.33 billion) exit package.

Softbank and its chairman, Masayoshi Son, are among the 10 named defendants in the Nov. 4 complaint, which also accuses them and Neumann of self-dealing.

“WeWork believes this lawsuit is meritless,” a spokeswoman said on Friday. Softbank, its outside representatives, and Sojka’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is a new hurdle for WeWork, whose New York-based parent, the We Company, shelved its IPO on Sept. 30 after investors grew wary of its losses, its business model and its corporate governance. Neumann had resigned the previous week.

Estimates of WeWork’s valuation have sunk to as little as $5.9 billion, based on the value of Softbank’s proposed $9.5 billion rescue, from $47 billion in August.

WeWork on Friday revealed plans to divest all non-core businesses and cut jobs, and Neumann’s former chief of staff sued him last week for pregnancy discrimination.

Though shareholder lawsuits are often associated with publicly traded companies, WeWork’s private status “has no bearing” on the merits of a case, said Michael Klausner, a corporate law and governance professor at Stanford Law School.