Adam Neumann was mentioned 169 times in WeWork IPO filing — way more than Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk when their companies went public

Key Points
  • When it filed to go public last month WeWork mentioned its CEO more often than Apple, Google, Microsoft and Tesla did in their comparable documents.
  • Now Adam Neumann, who has run WeWork since it was founded in 2010, is stepping down.
Adam Neumann of WeWork and Victor Fung Kwok-king, right, chairman of Fung Group, attend a signing ceremony at WeWork's Weihai Road location on April 12, 2018 in Shanghai, China.
Jackal Pan | Visual China Group | Getty Images

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:

  • Apple (1980): Three references to "Steve," eight references to "Jobs"
  • Microsoft (1986): 23 references to "Gates" (there are also two references to "Bill," but they're not about him — one is about the Tax Reform Bill of 1985)
  • Amazon (1997): 96 references to "Jeffrey," 191 references to "Bezos"
  • Netflix (2000): 60 references to "Reed," 65 references to "Hastings"
  • Google (2004): 58 references to "Eric," 22 references to "Schmidt" (unlike Adam Neumann, Schmidt was not a founder.)
  • Tesla (2010): 48 references to "Elon," 111 references to "Musk"
  • Facebook (2012): 33 references to "Mark," 113 references to "Zuckerberg" (three references are to Mark's sister, Randi)

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.

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