back to article WeWork filed its IPO homework. So we had a look at its small print and... yowser. What has El Reg got itself into?

WeWork, the office rental upstart that poses as some kind of tech startup incubation facility, has submitted the paperwork for its stock-market debut in the US – and its filings warn the biz “may never be profitable.” This news is everywhere today because it's the middle of August and no sane business knowingly announces stuff …

  1. wyatt

    Wow, not sure what else to say.

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge

    The Reg

    Coming to a cardboard refrigerator box in an alley near you soon.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      The Register

      Biting the hand that feedsshelters IT

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Reg

      If the cardboard refrigerator box is in San Francisco, the monthly rent will only be $5,000.

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: The Reg

      We lol'd a lot at this comment. Cheers


  3. elDog

    Sounds like a typical grab-and-run. Altho a bit too transparent in their SEC filings.

    Sometimes this grunts/admin-assts that are tasked to write the copy want to have a bit of fun. And the the peckers-onn-top/lawyers don't bother to read what's being filed.

    Still, I could probably make a huge dent in any corps profit given an open tap for a few hours/day. Not sure I'd be a good office/cubicle/desk mate, however.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like a typical grab-and-run. Altho a bit too transparent in their SEC filings.

      It's worth noting that Softbank's "Vision Fund" is a big investor in WeWork and the IPO is supposed to demonstrate the success of the fund as Matayusha Son (probably got this wrong) drums up even more cash for even more stupid startups. Everything looks great as long either more cash is being raised, or investments are being divested.

      Cash has rarely looked better. Which one of the reasons why everyone's so keen for us to go cashless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like a typical grab-and-run. Altho a bit too transparent in their SEC filings.

        By “Vision Fund” you mean “The Saudis”.

        So if you are gay, in a WeWork, your rent is directly funding people who execute people like you.

        The oh-so-woke tech industry seems to be strangely silent about this.

  4. Michael Jarve

    It sounds like someone OD'd on the whale-song and incense. I can sympathize with the need to keep rent and what not low, but to build a business model on hot-seat office space without a real grand plan in mind, and have it's mission to be to ".... elevate the world’s consciousness." just seems, well, not well thought out, to put it generously. I wish them the best, and hopefully The Face Book will buy them out to prevent competition in the idiocy sector, but, I suppose, time will tell.

  5. katrinab Silver badge

    They are a real estate company

    Benchmark them against the likes of Regus. Rental yield and occupancy rates are the most important numbers. All this value-add stuff is only useful if it leads to higher rental yields in excess of the additional costs involved. Good design and decor sometimes does, up to a point, as people don’t like shabby filthy offices. Catering facilities should at least break even in their own right, but can help rental yields elsewhere in the building if there isn’t much outside. This is mainly relevant for buildings in industrial estates, not so much in city centres. Everything else usually doesn’t pay for itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They are a real estate company

      They're also just a bog standard landlord in many places. My stodgy, unglamorous company (hence AC) rents three floors of uncool office space in central London from them. There's definitely no free beer or whale song going on there.

    2. Valerion

      Re: They are a real estate company

      BBC News made this comparison a while back:

      Essentially, IWG has about 7 times the number of properties, close to double the revenue, and actually made £150m profit last year compared to a £1.5bn loss. As a result it is valued at £3bn compared to £36bn - a tenth of the value despite being very profitable and having many times the assets.

      I despair. As, I expect, do the IWG board.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They are a real estate company

        It's gambler logic.

        A real gambler doesn't go for an each way with a low yield. A real gambler prefers the 100:1 horse or the single number at roulette. It's more exciting.

        When you realise that many bank traders are compulsive gamblers who have found a way to get other people to fund their addiction, it all makes sense.

  6. a cynic writes...

    So what's the plan if it all kicks off?

    Grab reg the vulture and nip across to the Winchester Knight's Templar, have a nice cold pint, and wait for it all to blow over?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "have a nice cold pint, and wait for it all to blow over?"

      Ah pretty much. S'wot happened when a power cut took out the SF financial district, including our old office. We sodded off to the nearest pub with working electricity and Wi-Fi - Vesuvio


    2. Tom Paine

      Re: So what's the plan if it all kicks off?

      Wow, that's really quite a pub!,-0.111949,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipPxcnzC3zuX62tqLr0JD_EhiJp91kVegyntiO76!2e10!3e12!!7i4032!8i3024!4m5!3m4!1s0x48761b4b511773c5:0x4c146446e7bf4e90!8m2!3d51.515259!4d-0.111949

      Knocks spots off the crappy pub-inna-box at the local mainline station that provides our post-work consolation.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: The Knights Templar

        If you spend too much money in there you could end up in Carey Street.

        What's that? Oh, it is in Carey Street.

  7. oiseau


    You may even be tempted to sink some of your wage packet into WeWork ...

    Are you sure that was sugar you put into your cuppa?


  8. JLV

    >1980s hits playing 24/7 in the lobbies

    As someone who grew up during that period, I find this an exceedingly harsh and cruel punishment, only marginally topped by constant serenades of Dua Lippa, Kathy Perry and Rihanna @ Starbucks.

    For the rest? It’s 2000 all over again, yay baby! anyone? It’d be funny to see such clueless sub-optimal businesses, if they didn’t suck up so much cash. All they are is a specialized business landlord, i.e. a business where costs assuredly scale up with volume, unlike software orr manufacturing. If they haven’t figured out how to make money by now, why figure they will in the future? “Global consciousness” aside.

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    "Instant IPO" filing Software

    It’s full of utter toss...

    Why spend $$$ on expensive advisors to formulate your IPO filing - Save $$$ by using our advanced AI driven software - just provide a few key parameters and the software will generate a set of exemplary documents.

  10. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I think the pessimistic bits in the IPO are a regulatory requirement. Mind you, I think they hoped for a better review with free beer.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Hello, Leo from HP here. WeWork sounds like a great addition to our portfolio and we'd like to offer $11bn - I think that's the market valuation? We're sorting a due-diligence report now but it's a formality and we don't plan to read it.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Thanks, Androgynous Cupboard - that made me laugh out loud! (Try explaining it to a companion who has no idea who Leo Apoteker is, or why this is funny, though.)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Khassoghi thing

    Have we forgotten that WeWorks has as principal investor that (in)famous Saudi Prince?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Khassoghi thing

      The FIRST rule of Saudi Prince Club, is you don't talk about Saudi Prince Club..

      1. JLV

        Re: The Khassoghi thing

        A wise use of AC privileges. I saw what you did.

  12. Brian Miller

    Losing money - again??

    How many times will there be something like, "hot new startup is profitable, and is not a scam"? Really, what are they doing to lose so much money? It sounds like they are slowly screwing their investors.

    A furniture company decided to rent out office space. Now that makes sense. This desk rental stuff, not so much. After all, Amazon only really turned profitable after becoming a server farm company, with a shopping demo on the side.

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Efficiently operationalise our strategies to invest in world-class technology, and leverage our core competencies in order to holistically administrate exceptional synergy.

    1. JLV
      Thumb Up

      Yesssss. But please put that through the hipster, not PHB, transform.

    2. simonlb

      My bullshit filter just blew up after feeding that line into it. Thanks.

    3. James 51

      No one else spot the Weird Al reference?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Steve K



    5. katrinab Silver badge

      Sorry, your buzzword generator is about 20 years out of date.

      You want something along the lines of, "An IA driven, blockchain-native cloud platform, integrating Internet-Of-Things technologies to synergise [something or other, my head is about to explode just thinking about it]".

  14. J.Smith

    Nice wheez

    So the the people who own the company, own the property that the company leases from them, at a loss (increasing the bosses property wealth), and the bosses are not contracted to that company (they can cut and run, no questions asked or liability). The business will run at a loss, and requests an injection of financial backing. It's property speculation, but with added oomph under the guise of a beautiful innovative startup, and risk protected, and more money on the side from the company's IPO, etc., etc.

    Nice wheez, good luck to them (by that I mean rot in hell).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Nice wheez

      Anyone who's read anything about the 19th Century railway boom will have smiled knowingly when they got to that paragraph in the article. I mean I would have run a mile from that "investment opportunity" at the loss-making bit - given it's in real estate and not software. But to see that the board own the assets and rent them to the company changes my inner analyst's recommendation from "flee!" to "run away screaming in terror!"

      1. Yougottalaugh

        Re: Nice wheez

        But wait there’s more. The WSJ reported in July that Cofounder Adam Neumann cashed out what they described as an “unusually large sum of $700M” ahead of the IPO through through a mix of stock sales and debt.

    2. Erik4872

      Re: Nice wheez

      Indeed -- it seems like a lot of these startups are taking pages from the Theranos playbook. That's what different with this Dotcom Bubble...the last one, people were just totally delusional. This time, it seems they're being a little more deceptive.

      All's fun until some forensic accountant at SoftBank starts unraveling whatever crazy rent-back scheme they have going after the founders relocate somewhere with no extradition treaties...

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Nice wheez

        I mean, that worked so well for Sears as well...

  15. Denarius

    Courage rarely seen

    Tip of hat ( not red!) to team at Vulture towers. So rarely do organisations practice what the mission statement babbles. I hope the rent does not double again, or the alley get too cold.

    I'll give WeRent a nod for being upfront, even tho they have to by law.

  16. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    The opportunities are endless

    Disclaimer: what follows has no basis in reality or knowledge of facts, just an intellectual exercise on the business opportunities related to the business model outlined in the SEC finding and illustrated with blurry pictures...

    1. Director A (who may or may not be a founder) owns suitable real estate that he rents to WeWorks at prices the latter cannot afford. WeWorks keep losing billions of dollars - scratch that: its investors keep losing billions of dollars - while attracting public investors on the basis of that most hi-tech metric, the number of "active monthly users" who don't pay enough to cover the rent paid to the property owners (the set that includes Director A). Director A has no significant holdings in WoWorks though and benefits from a good chunk of those lost billions paid as rent for his properties that don't stand to lose a penny in value because of WeWorks' impending bankruptcy.

    2. Director B (who may or may not be a founder) owns suitable real estate that he rents to WeWorks at prices the latter cannot afford. On top of that he is engaged in a variety of dodgy activities that would attract regulatory or law enforcement attention without some kind of careful profit laundering. The dodgy businesses contract a humongous number of companies, some of them startups, some of those with only artificial intelligence supporting the operation, who rent office space from WeWorks, thereby improving the metrics of "active monthly users" that attracts investors, but still not paying enough rent to cover what WeWorks pays for renting the property from Director B and others. The books swell, the laundry cycle gets longer and more difficult to trace, everybody wins except those who lose money when WeWorks post billions in losses.

    3. ... Well, need to do some honest work now... I do have an employment contract, after all...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The opportunities are endless

      I'm salaried... I get paid wither I work or not. :)

      (AC for obvious reasons...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The opportunities are endless

      Oscar Properties listed on the Stockholm Exchange / Nasdaq OMX-Nordic Market does a similar thing.

      Fraud is sadly a thought-crime: It is only fraud in the "go-to-jail"-interpretation if it can be proved that the directors were stripping all of the investors assets out of the company while loading it up with debt and stripping that out too with the *deliberate intent* of nicking all the assets for personal use.

      If it just kinda happens in the "nobody could possibly have imagined"-way so popular these days, then its all above board and totally legal.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I haven't time for a detailed business appraisal but...

    "F**k right off" seems a reasonable (non) purchasing stance for this investment.

    Or in the words of somewhat well know business show "I'm out."

    No, really, I'm out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I haven't time for a detailed business appraisal but...

      > No, really, I'm out.

      Although (probably) not in the pink unicorn sense.

  18. lglethal Silver badge

    The mind boggles

    How can you a) have no contract with your CEO/Founder? b) have (if im reading that correctly) no contractual basis with your board members, c) Use properties owned by the CEO/founder/board members (conflict of interest much?)?

    a) I didnt think was possible, I mean how they paying him without a contract? petty cash?

    b) ditto a

    c) how can you possibly negotiate reasonable rental prices with someone who can at a word see you fired if you question the prices they demand. this seems like the absolute definition of a conflict of interest, and since it comprises the CEO and the board, there is zero way that they could recuse themselves from involvement.

    No wonder there losing millions/billions a year...

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: The mind boggles

      Just curious (and assuming there is someone more switched on on El Reg), as a private company I can see how they could get away with the above conflicts of interest and lack of contracts. But as soon as they IPO, and become a Public company, any group of investors could simply sue them for conflicts of interest and get the board/CEO sacked right? Or at least force them off the decision making commities and allow WeWork to get much better rental deals right?

      You dont usually get away with having major conflicts of interest in a public company, right?

    2. AdamT

      Re: The mind boggles

      a) it says no _employment_ contract. i.e. he is not an employee subject to standard notice periods, etc. There will be some other kind of commercial contract in place to pay him for services but this can have any kind of terms including "walk away without warning"

      b) ditto (a). I think this is quite common (but not necessarily right or good) at this level - especially if they are directors for multiple companies

      c) yes - this seems like the biggest of the red flags. It's a situation where they've made sure they personally can't lose if WeWork goes down. They still have the rent payments, the buildings and whatever payoffs they've put into their services (not employment!) contracts...

  19. Giovani Tapini

    Lack of employment contract huh...

    That sounds like a scam to avoid any liabilities in the event of lawsuits, bankruptcy etc.

    I reckon there will be some dodgy transactions, the directors will leg it, replacement directors will accuse former directors of fraud or mismanagement and close the company while apologising for everyone's loss.

    Whats the point of a company that may never become profitable? They may as well find a way to make it a charity and have done with it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lack of employment contract huh...

      "Whats the point of a company that may never become profitable?"

      Lots of companies exist that aren't profitable, and actively try to avoid being so if posiible. The purpose is (quite legitimately) to enable the owners to keep drawing money from the company whilst keeping it operating.

      When big losses mount up however, this could be an indicator that the game is nearly up and the extraction rate may not be sustained by turnover for too much longer. Hence, reasons to suspect attempts to offload ownership are justified. There are other, less salubrious possibilities too.

    2. KBeee

      Re: Lack of employment contract huh...

      "... reckon there will be some dodgy transactions, the directors will leg it, replacement directors will accuse former directors of fraud or mismanagement and close the company while apologising for everyone's loss..." and the receivers will pay the creditors any remaining money to cover the debts, which will be the first set of Directors. Win Win!

    3. fajensen

      Re: Lack of employment contract huh...

      Whats the point of a company that may never become profitable?

      I dunno, I suppose one *could* use turnover as a proxy for growth to load it up with debt, suck out most of the capital via dividends and management incentive plans, then sell the carcass off to some bag holders and then short the stock?

      1. Steve K

        Re: Lack of employment contract huh...

        Dividends have to come out of profit though.

        Extracting via rent or loan interest to director-controlled companies etc. is a genius wheeze though to extract money.....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, damn

    We're about to move into Regus space. No WeWork here, no free beer.

  21. NeilPost Silver badge


    Sounds like they need to do some Joint Venture stuff with JDW... who could look after the beer - a little better.

    They’ll be overrun with customers after Brexit shurely.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Wetherspoon’s

      Their breakfasts are fine and they do free refills on the coffee, so why not any time?

      On the B thing, Our Tim will come to his senses soon enough, he can do the numbers. Some of the other flying monkeys have problems with counting...

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Wetherspoon’s

        I have a lot of EU (non UK) friends, in aftermath of Brexit vote I was busy telling them about spoons Tim (and his politics) and suggesting they may wish to consider taking their custom to a non spoons pub . Unsurprisingly, most did just that (only ones who didn't where those that had no other pub option near their workplace)

  22. Warm Braw

    Lots of organised networking events

    An increase in their number does seem to be as reliable an indicator of a forthcoming tech bust as yield-curve inversion is of a recession.

    I have worked for many years with a much more modest provider of shared work space away from the metropolis. Where people can still afford a house with a spare room, the demand has dropped dramatically: people would once have had an office in which to install a telephone and a secretary, those days have long gone. Businesses are not now looking for premises until they have half a dozen staff. At that point the benefits of the shared provision are rather diminished, though there are still advantages to not being tied to a long-term lease. But that's a negative for the workspace provider: if commercial rents fall (and given the large amount of empty retail space that's pretty much inevitable) your tenants can swiftly melt away.

  23. James 47

    Eye spy

    "Working lifts are also a distinctly optional part of the package: they are never fully working, it seems"

    So you're in Aviation House across from Holborn Station?

  24. HonestPete

    Another South Sea Bubble company!

    They have the worst management with constant changes of positions and personnel and no strategy apart from growth at all costs. We had offices in two of their locations and, as someone else said, working elevators were optional and response time to fix them was terrible! I hear that they have a number of senior people on "long term sickness" leave, who are all just waiting for the float and then they will all be gone! Any fool who puts money into this deserves all they get, which will be losses, losses and more losses and a very high chance of the company going out of business and being broken up!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another South Sea Bubble company!

      I remember a couple of "downsizings". It actually starts with funny little things like elevators that won't open unless one applies a special kick to the doors. IT-support takes ages & ages to get workstations set up for new hires, et cetera.

      People will joke about it and mock "services" - but - talking informally to recruiters, updating CV's and getting out of there ahead of the crowds is what the smart people do.

      Alternatively, one can slack off and wait for the severance package being offered. If the business is planning to move to a new site rather than going bust, then the severance offer can be quite good if one has the patience to wait for it.

      In the latter case, on top of the CV update, talking to recruiters ..., one should put together a negotiation plan with many nice things that one wants and some redundancy to "give away".

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the CEO owns the properties being rented by the company that he runs and has no contract with. That same company which he gets VCs and other investors to put money in spends that money on refurbishing said property at a loss. When the company goes under, it has no assets at all as everything was rented from the CEO, at a loss. The CEO then has a load of refurbished properties which has been rented out, probably at a higher rate than he could have got otherwise.

    Nice business plan he's got there.

  26. BGatez

    You could lose less - just open a restaurant

    1. DavCrav

      Or buy a football club.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Or buy a football club.

        Or take up competition yachting..

  27. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    "Working lifts are also a distinctly optional part of the package"

    Elevating how people work, live and grow, not to mention the world’s consciousness is a lot more important than getting you from the ground floor to the first floor.

    1. whitepines

      Re: "Working lifts are also a distinctly optional part of the package"

      Just substitute "monitoring" for "elevating" in that drivel and the resultant statement not only makes more a lot more sense but jives with the Chinese law.

      Ow! Stop kicking, I didn't ask for PR to be present here!

    2. fandom

      Re: "Working lifts are also a distinctly optional part of the package"

      People pay expensive gym subscriptions so they can use a machine that simulates going up a stair.

      WeWork selflessly provides that service for free! And yet they get complains.

      Haters gonna hate, I guesss.

  28. Erik4872

    Not PCI compliant?

    I'm assuming WeWork is one of those cloud-first companies. All the major cloud providers are PCI compliant -- at least their infrastructure is. What kind of rinky-dink payment app did they cook up? That's the only way they can explain their statement that they're not PCI compliant yet...even snap-together shopping cart apps store card details in a way that the PCI auditors won't frown on.

    That said, stories about them and this filing make me believe they're just a totally delusional cult. Who out there thinks it's OK for a company a CEO owns to rent all of its office space it's rerenting from the same CEO and his cronies?? It almost makes me want to go found "LLC of Me, LLC" and sell my house to myself, pay myself rent, and immediately be able to deduct every single expense I incur maintaining the house from my income...but the IRS doesn't look kindly on self-dealing unless you're rich I guess.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not PCI compliant?

      They haven't been audited yet, don't intend on being audited as cant be bothered to go through the requirements and pay the auditors every year and ensure that they are compliant due to the additional work required.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are growing too fast to become profitable, leasing space from the CEO who has no fiduciary responsibilities - he can charge all the "rent" he wants while adding more properties under contract to said company, so that when it goes TITSUP (Total Inability To Sustain User Presence) up he can write off the "loss" of future anticipated revenue plus the depreciation (carrying over remaining negative balance from year to year) while leasing the space to new tenants at true market value and never having to pay a penny's taxes for the rest of his life. With the right lawyers and proper residence, it's probably all perfectly legal and ingenious.

  30. Pier Reviewer

    Naming dispute

    “we have received correspondence from third parties asserting potential claims of trademark infringement with respect to some of our WE names and trademarks. We dispute these assertions”

    Surprised nobody commented on that. Looks like Tencent’s lawyers are sniffing about. Given that Tencent are basically an arm of China’s SIGINT I don’t rate WeWork’s chances.

  31. Tim Jenkins


    Just wondering, how does charging for space and then giving away beer to the occupants comply with UK premises licencing?

    1. electricmonk


      "Although we expect to become Licensing Act 2003 compliant in 2019, our practices with respect to this type of refreshment are evolving and do not yet fully comply with that industry standard and other applicable guidelines. Cheers."

    2. plunet


      WeWork do apply for a premises licence for the sale and supply of alcohol at their premises in the UK. The fact that they give it away they still need one for supply.

  32. Ima Ballsy

    Damnnn .....

    "bigger pile of cash for your delight, delectation, and possibly retirement."

    A first reading I saw defecation instead of delectation ...... And make some smarmy remark as how's this a shitty article.

    But after reading the full article, again, I find that the idea itself is really shitty, so I mentally am keeping the erroneous interpretation ...

  33. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Homeopathic IPA?

    Any information on the dilution factor?

    I assume it is still fully effective if one original yeast cell frightened a nearby water molecule?

  34. The Rope

    If and when they go public there will be a MASSIVE issue regarding corporate governance.

  35. Paul 87

    So basically, their business plan is to build up 10 years of losses, then offset those against an actually profitable business plan and in the mean time make sure that their CEO gets paid twice, and if possible, a third time by selling stocks in a loss making company.

    The US desperately needs a business regulator that has actual teeth. This should have never got past the submission stage

  36. JimC

    Still, look on the bright side

    Seems like their investors are subsidising El Reg...

  37. Colin Bain fire

    I want to see them go and sell this in the dragons den . Which is what I thought the authorities were, but then I'm impossibly naive for the times

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like