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Episode 200
Featuring Maureen Farrell
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Maureen Farrell about the rise and fall of WeWork, a real estate company that was at one point the most valuable start-up in America, despite racking up over $10 billion dollars in losses and vaporizing nearly forty billion dollars in equity value practically overnight.

In Episode 200 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Maureen Farrell, author of “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neuman, and the Great Startup Delusion.”

Maureen, along with her colleague and co-author Eliot Brown, were some of the first reporters at the Wall Street Journal to cover what is arguably the biggest financial debacle in the history of early-stage investing. And yet, this description doesn’t even begin to capture the incredible story that is the rise and fall of WeWork: a story about a real estate company that was at one point the most valuable start-up in America, despite racking up over $10 billion dollars in losses over the course of just nine years and vaporizing nearly forty billion dollars in equity value practically overnight.

The reality of WeWork—of what it is and what it was—stands in stark contrast to what its founder, Adam Neuman said it was to his investors, employees, and the media. It was going to be worth ten trillion dollars, more than any other company in the world. It wasn’t just an office space provider. It was a tech play. Its spin-offs like “WeGrow” and “WeLive” were going to revolutionize education and change the world. Adam Neuman was going to solve Middle East peace and WeWork would help colonize Mars.

As crazy as all of this sounds, it is emblematic of a larger decay in the most basic principles of capitalism that prioritizes the raising of capital over the turning of profits. It rewards storytellers over businesspeople. Price over value.

This episode is broken into two parts, the first half of which is focused mainly on the particulars of WeWork, the characters involved, and the disastrous decisions made by its management along with the dereliction of its board. The second half focuses on the larger macro forces that are responsible for encouraging the type of behavior that we’ve seen in the case of WeWork and applying that template to other companies and their executives. We also explore the intersection of politics and finance, including a rise in demagoguery that parallels the institutional and moral decay we are witnessing across many parts of Western society.

You can access the second half of this conversation, as well as the transcript, and show notes to this week’s episode through the Hidden Forces Patreon Page. All subscribers gain access to our overtime feed, which can be easily added to your favorite podcast application.

If you enjoyed listening to today’s episode of Hidden Forces you can help support the show by doing the following:

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Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

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Follow Demetri on Twitter at @Kofinas

Episode Recorded on 07/15/2021

Maureen Farrell has been a reporter at The Wall Street Journal since 2013. She previously worked at Forbes, Debtwire, and Mergermarket. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in English literature and the Columbia School of Journalism.

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