WeWork had a lot to say about Adam Neumann, its co-founder and outgoing CEO, when it filed the paperwork kicking off the process of going public last month. The prospectus for its initial public offering referred to "Adam" 169 times.
The company was less outspoken about Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham, the executives taking over for Neumann following cuts to the company's valuation and the emergence of questions about WeWork's governance.
"While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction," Neumann was quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the company previously said Neumann was essential to its success. "Adam has been key to setting our vision, strategic direction and execution priorities," the S-1 said. "If Adam does not continue to serve as our Chief Executive Officer, it could have a material adverse effect on our business."
In fact, an analysis of IPO filings for technology companies with well-known CEOs suggests an unusual amount of corporate attention on Neumann, who had been WeWork's leader since its founding in 2010. The number of his IPO mentions stuck out to New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway, who showed in a tweet Tuesday that the references outnumbered similar mentions of the leaders of Lyft (Logan Green and John Zimmer), Slack (Stewart Butterfield), Uber (Dara Khosrowshahi) and Zoom (Eric Yuan).
The document from The We Company also contained 65 references to "Neumann," including some regarding his wife, fellow co-founder Rebekah Neumann.
Plenty of other successful tech companies have had charismatic CEOs. But none of them made as many references to those leaders in their IPO filings. Here's a sampling:
Perhaps the collapse of WeWork's IPO will put an end to the tech world's tendency to idolize visionary founders while underestimating the many other factors, such as recruiting, customer focus and strong corporate governance, that help turn start-ups into giants.