Historical Accuracy (Q&A):How did Adam Neumann and Rebekah Paltrow meet?
In the WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series, Adam and Rebekah meet at a party he's throwing on the rooftop of his apartment building. The WeCrashed true story reveals that in real life, Rebekah's college friend Andrew Finkelstein set them up on a blind date when they were both living in New York City. When speaking to crowds, Adam always liked telling the story of how he and his wife Rebekah met. During his commencement speech at Baruch College, he told the audience about their first date. "She looked me straight in the eye and she said, 'You, my friend, are full of sh**.' "
Was Adam Neumann in the military?Yes. While conducting the WeCrashed fact-check, we learned that prior to starting college in New York in January 2002, the Israeli-born Neumann had been an officer in Israel's navy for five years.Was Adam Neumann a college dropout?
In real life, Rebekah Paltrow and Adam Neumann met through Rebekah's college friend Andrew Finkelstein. Photo: Facebook
Yes. The true story behind WeWork confirms that like so many other tech CEOs who came before him, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and blood-testing startup fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neumann was a college dropout. With only four credits left in the mid-2000s, he dropped out of Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in New York City to focus full time on Krawlers, a baby clothing business he started. He did eventually complete the independent study he needed to graduate and finally received his bachelor's degree in 2017, 15 years after he enrolled.
What does WeWork do as a company?
The real Adam Neumann (left) dropped out of college with only four credits left. Jared Leto (right) portrays Adam in the WeCrashed
Apple TV Plus series.
The commercial real estate company re-imagined the workspace by creating functional, upscale office spaces shared by multiple companies. They pitched it as not an office space, but rather a community. WeWork caters mainly to technology startups. The company also creates virtual shared spaces.When did Adam Neumann launch WeWork?In researching how true is WeCrashed, we learned that Adam Neumann (portrayed by Jared Leto) and business partner Miguel McKelvey (played by Kyle Marvin) founded a shared office space company called Green Desk in 2008. That idea paved the way for WeWork. The sale of their company Green Desk provided part of the funds they needed to launch their first WeWork location in 2010 in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. They also received $15 million in funding from real estate developer Joel Schreiber. The real building at 154 Grand Street (pictured below) was in even worse condition than the building in the series. It's true that part of their space in the building had been previously used as an S&M dungeon.
WeWork's first location was in 3,000 square feet of this run down tenement-style building in New York City's SoHo neighborhood.
WeWork founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey were undoubtedly inspired by their upbringings. As stated in the WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series, the six-foot-five Neumann was raised on a kibbutz (communal settlement) in Israel and the six-foot-eight McKelvey was raised on an Oregon commune. They were motivated by the idea of creating a sort of "capitalist kibbutz" and the result was WeWork. Later, Neumann would fully embrace the idea of communal living with his coliving venture WeLive.
Did Rebekah Neumann's father give them $1 million as a wedding gift?Yes. An exploration into WeCrashed's accuracy confirms that Rebekah and Adam did receive $1 million as a wedding gift from her father, Bob Paltrow. Like in the Apple TV Plus series, they did end up putting the money into WeWork. However, her father giving them the money because he didn't trust that Adam could take care of his daughter seems likely but is unknown.Did Rebekah Neumann really play that big of a role in WeWork's evolution?
WeWork cofounders Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann. Photo: WeWork
Yes. The WeWork true story confirms that she started out as a sort of silent adviser and financier at the company, referring to herself as a "strategic thought partner." She would eventually become the chief brand and impact officer of WeWork's parent company We.
According to the Vanity Fair article "How Billionaire Rebekah Neumann put the Woo-Woo in WeWork," she reportedly hired and fired people based on their "energy." An individual who had interviewed with Rebekah for a contract job said that he got the impression "she was guiding the company through her astrological intuition." They discussed his zodiac sign more than anything else, including what kind of energy that would bring. Needless to say, based on his "energy," she determined he wouldn't be a good fit. Another employee was hired due to his "good energy."
The Hulu documentary WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn drives home Rebekah's domineering level of executive control at the company, which is effectively showcased by Anne Hathaway in the WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series. By 2019, when WeWork had attained its peak valuation, Rebekah Neumann started to refer to herself as a "cofounder."
Did Adam Neumann's wife Rebekah start a private elementary school called WeGrow?Yes. The WeCrashed true story confirms that the elementary school for the children of New York's elites was indeed Rebekah's passion project. She positioned herself as CEO of WeGrow in 2017. Tuition ranged anywhere from $22,000 to $42,000. In 2018, WeGrow had a total of around 46 students, including Adam and Rebekah Neumann's four children. Following the failed IPO and the Neumanns' exit from WeWork, the school closed at the end of the 2020 school year due to major cost-cutting at the parent We Company. Parents who had sent their children to WeGrow said that they were impressed with the teachers and pleased with the education their children had received.
Rebekah Neumann (left) acted as Adam's muse before taking on a major role at WeWork. Anne Hathaway's character (right) asserts her influence over Adam in the series.
However, a longtime employee told Vanity Fair that he had begun to wonder if these other ventures, including WeGrow, the communal living venture WeLive, and the holistic wellness center Rise by We, were started more to "line the Neumanns' pockets" than to "change the world."
Was WeWork valued at $47 billion at its peak?Yes. A little digging into the WeWork true story verifies that by 2019, the company had a jaw-dropping $47 billion valuation, which had taken roughly nine years to achieve. However, in a matter of six weeks, WeWork would go from being worth $47 billion to near bankruptcy. It would be the largest drop in the value of a company since Enron.
Students and instructors are pictured inside the unconventional WeGrow elementary school, which was Rebekah Neumann's passion project.
How many employees did WeWork have?
WeWork's valuation compared to other tech unicorns.
While researching the WeCrashed fact vs. fiction, we learned that at its peak valuation in 2019, WeWork had roughly 12,500 employees across 29 countries.Did Adam and Rebekah Neumann really ban meat eating in the WeWork office?
Yes. A vegetarian since age 12, Adam Neumann's wife Rebekah forbid the consumption of meat in the WeWork office. However, an employee who knew her well said that she would eat red meat once a week because a doctor had told her that her body required it. She is said to have closed her eyes while consuming it.
What is WeCrashed based on?The WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway is based on Wondery's six-part podcast released in early 2020, titled WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork. It is not based on the popular Hulu documentary. The real Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah did not participate in the podcast or the Hulu documentary.Is Rebekah Neumann related to Gwyneth Paltrow?
The real Adam and Rebekah Neumann are portrayed by Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway in the Apple TV Plus series.
Yes. Born Rebekah Paltrow, she is Gwyneth Paltrow's cousin. Rebekah Neumann's parents are Evelyn and Bob Paltrow. Neumann also has other famous ties. While in college at Cornell, she dated Brian Hallisay, an actor who is now married to Jennifer Love Hewitt. Actress Anne Hathaway, who portrays Neumann in the Apple TV Plus series, says that after she Googled Neumann a bit, she realized they had friends in common (Newsweek). According to Vanity Fair, Rebekah Neumann is also friends with Ivanka Trump, and her friendship with Ashton Kutcher is touched on in the Wondery podcast.
Did Rebekah Neumann want to be an actress like her famous cousin?
For a video for her brand Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow interviews cousin Rebekah Neumann about her elementary school WeGrow.
Yes. Prior to marrying Adam Neumann, in order to separate herself from her cousin Gwyneth Paltrow, she had started using the stage name Rebekah Keith instead of her birth name, Rebekah Paltrow. She wrote and financed the expensive $100,000 15-minute short film Awake (2010), in which she made herself the lead alongside costars Rosario Dawson and Sean Lennon. Her friend Ashton Kutcher also gave her a small role in an episode of his TV show Punked. Ultimately, her acting career was not a success. She gave up pursuing acting when WeWork achieved the coveted unicorn status (a $1 billion valuation). At that point, the company had become too important to not be a full-time endeavor for Rebekah.
Was WeWork a cult?While researching the WeCrashed true story, we learned that Adam and Rebekah Neumann viewed their We Company as a collective, with their employees being "members" joined by a common spiritual energy and purpose (those who didn't share that energy were fired in a yearly fat trimming). Adam Neumann's wife, billionaire Rebekah Neumann, once stood on stage at a company retreat dubbed "Summer Camp" and told the employees standing in the mud below to join hands and close their eyes. She then said, "Just think about a reality in which the energy that we're feeling right now with one another is an energy of unity, an energy where I am you and you are me and we all are we." At the same time, the employees had been forced to wear tracking bands to prove they attended. -Vanity Fair
Rebekah Neumann's short film Awake
had a runtime of approximately 15 minutes and costarred Rosario Dawson in a supporting role.
The real Adam Neumann and his wife Rebecca get spiritual on stage. Bottom:
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway share in a joyous moment as the couple in the Apple TV Plus series.
Six-foot-five Adam Neumann often came across more as a wannabee-messiah figure than the company's CEO (Jared Leto falls short of his stature at only five-eleven). So, was WeWork a cult? Former employees have described it as such, and it certainly gave off that vibe far more than say Jordan Belfort's rowdy frat-boy energy that drove the employees of the Stratton Oakmont brokerage house that inspired The Wolf of Wall Street. Take WeWork's infamous S-1 form that is required for businesses to go public. The Neumanns included a dedication on the initial page "to the energy of we—greater than any one of us but inside all of us." In the Hulu documentary, NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway comments that WeWork's S-1 read like a novel typed by someone who was on shrooms. Wall Street Journal writers Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell even titled their WeWork book The Cult of We.How many customers did WeWork have?A WeCrashed fact-check reveals that by 2019, WeWork had grown its customer base to over 500,000 customers, encompassing everyone from large corporations down to independent freelancers.
Was WeWork profitable under Adam and Rebekah Neumann?
A look inside two WeWork locations. At the top is an image of the interior of a WeWork location in London and at the bottom is a common space at a location in Brazil.
No. While WeWork boasted over half a million paying customers by 2019, the company's rapid expansion caused them to burn through billions of dollars in investors' money. In 2018, WeWork had revenue of $1.8 billion and a loss of $1.9 billion (Forbes). In the first six months of 2019, WeWork lost $690 million (Bloomberg).Is WeCrashed's Cameron Lautner based on a real person?
No. O-T Fagbenle's character, Benchmark Capital partner Cameron Lautner, is not based on any single real-life individual. Instead, he is at best an amalgamation of the various Benchmark partners who took issue with some of Adam Neumann's decisions as CEO of WeWork.
Did Adam Neumann get the company to pay him $5.9 million for the trademark to the word "we"?Not exactly. While investigating the true story behind WeWork, we confirmed that Adam Neumann had personally tried to secure the trademark to the word "we", but since the word is in the public domain, he told The New York Times he was unable to do so. In early 2019, while still CEO, he charged the company $5.9 million to purchase the intellectual property he owned related to the company, including trademarks to the names WeWork, WeLive, etc. Adam has since stated that the lawyers told him he had to sell the names to the company prior to it going public so that everything would be "above board." When the transaction was detailed in the S-1, it drew condemnation. He then gifted the payment back to the company. He said that had he realized he could have gifted the money immediately, he would have done so.Why was Adam Neumann fired by the WeWork board?
O-T Fagbenle's character, Cameron Lautner, is not based on any single partner at Benchmark Capital.
Like in the WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series, the true story confirms that Neumann's behavior became unpredictable and troubling. Vanity Fair reported that he skipped important meetings, restructured divisions erratically, gave barefooted spiritual presentations, and threw outdoor company parties that were akin to raves. A former employee told the magazine that the company was more like a "cult." Reports of Neumann's drinking and drug use were also worrisome, though he clarified that it was only marijuana.
Neumann boasted unrealistic profit projections in interviews and guided the company on a reckless expansion that was costing billions. He also had made several ethically questionable moves that concerned investors, including charging the company millions to lease properties he owned and selling off a total of $870 million in shares before the failed IPO (Daily Beast). Then there was the fact that a valuation ahead of the company's IPO put it at $10 billion, far less than the previous $47 billion valuation. At the end of 2019, Adam was asked to step down as CEO. He decided to resign and did so near the end of September 2019.
What happened to WeWork?After pushing out CEO Adam Neumann, the board appointed WeWork executives Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham to be co-CEOs. In an attempt to become profitable, they downsized and let go of thousands of employees. They also sold off Neumann's $60 million private jet, posted various WeWork acquisitions for sale, closed down the company's elementary school WeGrow, and shut down its coliving venture WeLive.How many people did WeWork fire?
The real Adam Neumann (left) stepped down from WeWork in September 2019.
In answering the question, "How true is WeCrashed?" we discovered that following the failed IPO and Adam Neumann stepping down as CEO, WeWork fired 2,400 employees, nearly 20% of its global workforce. While Adam Neumann walked away with more than a billion dollars, many of the employees were left with nothing. -Wondery PodcastWhen did WeWork go public?
The WeCrashed true story reveals that two years after CEO Adam Neumann stepped down, the company finally went public on October 21, 2021 with a valuation of $9 billion, a far cry from its earlier $47 billion valuation. Neumann says the COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame for the lengthy delay. -The New York TimesAre Adam and Rebekah Neumann still married?
Yes. As of 2022, they are still married and have five children. After being forced out of their We Company, they secluded themselves in Tel Aviv for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have since returned to The Hamptons.What is Rebekah Neumann doing today?
Adam Neumann's wife Rebekah is living with her husband and children in a house in The Hamptons village of Amagansett adjacent to an estate owned by her cousin Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwyneth's mother, actress Blythe Danner. Inspired by her educational endeavor WeGrow, which shut down in 2020, Rebekah is working on another educational project, a company called SOLFL, meant to sound like "soulful" and translate to a "Student of Life, for Life." You can check out SOLFL's Instagram page. She has reportedly set up the SOLFL school in a building in Amagansett. It is attended by her own kids and the children of several other families. -Vanity Fair
Is Adam Neumann still rich?Yes. According to Forbes, Adam Neumann was worth $1.4 billion in 2022 at the time of the release of the Jared Leto WeCrashed Apple TV Plus series. In October 2019, it was reported in The Wall Street Journal that Neumann had been paid almost $1.7 billion by WeWork stakeholder SoftBank to step down as CEO and cut nearly all ties with the company. In 2021, the board of WeWork agreed to give him a stock award valued at $245 million (Vanity Fair).What does Adam Neumann do now?
The real Rebekah Paltrow Neumann (left) and actress Anne Hathaway (right). Photo: WeWork
Following his departure from WeWork, Adam Neuman remained silent for two years, granting his first public interview to The New York Times in November 2021, two weeks after his former company WeWork went public. Since he left WeWork, he has been putting money into real-estate and tech-related startups and has taken on the role of venture capitalist. As of the writing of this article, he had invested in 49 companies via his family fund, which has over 50 people on staff (Financial Times).How many WeWork locations are there today?
As of 2022, there are 750 WeWork locations located in 121 cities around the world.Does Adam Neumann still own part of WeWork?
Yes. While exploring the WeCrashed fact vs. fiction, we discovered that Adam Neumann still owns about 10% of WeWork. He recently became eligible to sit on WeWork's board again. -Quartz