Explained: WeWork's downfall to bankruptcy

Beleaguered coworking firm WeWork filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on Monday, as part of what it described as a “comprehensive reorganization” of its business.

The startup, which was once worth about $47 billion, had started sending distress signals months in advance.

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Here’s a quick timeline of WeWork‘s journey from being one of the world’s most valuable startups to insolvency.

WeWork was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2010.

The startup opened its first location in New York City, in April 2011. It focused on leasing office space, rather than buying.

PepsiCo placed a few employees in a WeWork office in 2011, making the location a startup incubator.

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WeWork’s customer base expanded to over 350 startups by 2013.

Also read | WeWork India’s operations remain unaffected, as company files for bankruptcy in the US

JP Morgan Chase & Co, T. Rowe Price, Wellington Management, Goldman Sachs, the Harvard Corporation, and Benchmark were among the marquee names that had invested in the startup by 2014.

In August 2015, the company announced its first acquisition: real estate and construction technology company CASE.

In 2016, WeWork launched a co-living venture called WeLive in New York City and in Crystal City (Virginia). It terminated this business line in July 2021.

In July 2017, WeWork India partnered with Embassy Group to open its first space in Bengaluru, named WeWork Galaxy, with the capacity to host 2,200 members.

In August 2017, the company raised $4.4 billion from the SoftBank Vision Fund at a valuation of approximately $20 billion.

In 2018, WeWork lost over $2 billion.

In January 2019, WeWork raised an additional $2 billion from SoftBank at a $47 billion valuation, taking the Japanese investor’s total funding in the startup to over $10 billion.

In April 2019, WeWork filed a draft registration statement for a proposed initial public offering. The filing revealed significant losses, expensive lease agreements, and a series of financial transactions involving founder Adam Neumann.

Amid investor concerns over its corporate governance and outlook for the business, WeWork, in September 2019, withdrew its S-1 filing (initial registration filed with the SEC before the IPO). Subsequently, Neumann stepped down as CEO.

In September 2019, WeWork named Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham as co-CEOs.

In October 2019, SoftBank provided a lifeline of $5 billion in new financing and up to $3 billion in a tender offer to existing shareholders, raising SoftBank’s stake in the firm to about 80%.

In November 2019, SoftBank Group reported $9.2 billion in write-downs on its investments in WeWork, approximately 90% of the $10.3 billion it had invested in the coworking giant over the years.

WeWork announced layoffs of 2,400 employees, almost 20% of its workforce globally, in November 2019.

In February 2020, WeWork named Sandeep Mathrani, a former senior executive at GGP Inc. and Brookfield Property Partners, as CEO, effective February 18, 2020.

In March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, WeWork announced the temporary closure of 100 buildings in China.

In late March 2020, WeWork laid off 250 employees in an effort to lower expenses, followed by another round of employee layoffs at the end of April 2020.

In 2020, WeWork vacated 66 locations and re-negotiated lower rent, deferrals, or other lease changes at more than 150 other locations.

Under Mathrani, WeWork went public in October 2021 through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, with a $9 billion valuation. Mathrani stepped down in May 2023.

In March 2022, WeWork closed its offices in Russia during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

As of June 2022, the company was renting nearly 20 million square feet of office space in the United States, more than any other company, as per an NYT report.

Still, it said in August 2023 that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business.

In September 2023, WeWork said it would begin to renegotiate all its leases and exit certain locations.

And in October 2023, WeWork said it would miss interest payments worth $95 million – a move intended to help it negotiate with its lenders as it sought to cut costs with its landlords.

Later in October 2023, WeWork announced a new CEO, David Tolley, who had previously filled the role on an interim basis.

On November 6, 2023, WeWork filed a petition under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code at the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, listing liabilities of $10 billion to $50 billion.

Shares of WeWork, which cost more than $400 two years ago, had fallen to a low of about 83 cents before the stock was halted.

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