WeWork goes bankrupt, capping co-working company’s downfall

WeWork Inc., the former high-flying startup, has now filed for bankruptcy. This marks a fresh low for the co-working company, one which has been unable to recover from the pandemic and its failed initial public offering in 2019. The company’s total assets and liabilities were listed as a range between US$10 billion and US$50 billion in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed in New Jersey.

This filing will allow WeWork to keep operating while it works out a plan to pay off its debt. The New York based company reached a debt restructuring deal in 2023, but quickly encountered difficulties again. In August, they reported that there was “substantial doubt” about their ability to keep operating. Subsequently, they declared their intention to renegotiate nearly all their leases and withdraw from “underperforming” locations.

As of June 30, WeWork’s real estate footprint had spanned 777 locations across 39 countries, with occupancy levels just marginally lower than in 2019. But, as yet, the company has been unable to turn a profit.

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The company managed to go public in 2021 through a combination with a special purpose acquisition company, two years after its much-publicised failed IPO. At the time, investor scepticism caused concerns about the company’s governance, valuation and growth potential, consequently leading to Adam Neumann’s resignation as CEO and a significant drop in WeWork’s valuation, which had previously stood as high as US$47 billion.

Unfortunately, other shared office space firms have not fared better than WeWork in the wake of the pandemic – Knotel Inc. and subsidiaries of IWG Plc, for example, have both filed for bankruptcy in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

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