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SoftBank's WeWork financing would lead to Adam Neumann's exit - sources

Stock Markets Oct 21, 2019 05:55PM ET
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By Greg Roumeliotis, Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin

(Reuters) - SoftBank Group Corp (T:9984) offered close to $10 billion to WeWork owner The We Company, its employees and its investors on Monday under a plan to keep the struggling U.S. office-space sharing start-up afloat that would lead to the exit of its co-founder and Chairman Adam Neumann, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

WeWork could run out of cash as early as next month without new financing, sources have said, after the company pulled plans in September for an initial public offering (IPO). It abandoned the IPO when investors questioned its large losses, the sustainability of its business model and the way WeWork was being run by Neumann, who gave up his CEO title last month and now serves as board chairman.

SoftBank has offered $5 billion in new money to WeWork in the form of debt, the sources said. It is also proposing to accelerate a previous $1.5 billion equity commitment to WeWork in the form of warrants that are due in April, the sources added.

This commitment was made in January at a $47 billion valuation, but SoftBank is now seeking to renegotiate it at a valuation of about $8 billion, the sources added.

SoftBank is also proposing to launch a tender offer for up to $3 billion to acquire WeWork shares from existing investors and insiders, including Neumann, the sources said. Based on the outcome of the tender offer, SoftBank could own between 60% and 80% of WeWork but will seek to avoid consolidating the company on its books, one of the sources added.

Neumann could step down from The We Company's board as part of the deal with SoftBank and become an adviser, according to the sources. SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure would succeed Neumann as chairman, the sources said.

The We Company's board will meet on Tuesday to evaluate SoftBank's offer, one of the sources said. JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:JPM) has been trying to put together an alternative financing package, sources have said.

WeWork, SoftBank and JPMorgan declined to comment.

WeWork has lined up Mizuho Financial Group Inc (T:8411) as part of its syndication of the $5 billion debt package, one of the sources said. The package comprises letters of credit for more than $1 billion, as well as senior secured and subordinated bonds, the source added.

SoftBank and its $100 billion Vision Fund already own about a third of WeWork through previous investments totaling $10.6 billion.

The We Company’s seven-member board tasked two directors with representing the interests of all investors in the company by sitting on the special committee considering the financing plans, Reuters reported earlier this week.

One is Bruce Dunlevie, who is a general partner at WeWork shareholder Benchmark Capital. The other is Lew Frankfort, who is the former CEO of luxury handbag maker Coach.

SoftBank's WeWork financing would lead to Adam Neumann's exit - sources
 

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