Business / Corporate

WeWork's backers and staff can cash out in $2 billion SoftBank deal

Bloomberg

WeWork Cos. will let investors and employees sell shares to SoftBank Group Corp. as part of the conglomerate’s $2 billion investment in the real estate and coworking startup, the companies said Tuesday. WeWork also announced that it would be rebranding itself as The We Company, though it hasn’t legally changed its name.

Over the next 15 months, SoftBank plans to invest $1 billion in primary capital and another $1 billion toward buying shares from investors and employees, the startup said. The $2 billion investment was a serious step back from the plan SoftBank floated late last year to potentially spend $16 billion on a controlling stake. The Financial Times earlier reported the news that SoftBank would downsize its WeWork investment. The funding values WeWork at $42 billion, not including the money it has raised, according to a person familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

SoftBank has invested or committed to invest more than $10 billion into WeWork since 2017, using a variety of financial structures and deals including convertible debt and warrants. The telecommunications giant once considered using money from its $93 billion Vision Fund, which is in part backed by the Saudi Arabia government, to buy a majority stake in the startup. But Tuesday’s investment comes from SoftBank Group Corp. directly.

WeWork also said Tuesday it is rebranding as The We Company, with three distinct business lines: WeWork, its main office space-rental arm; WeLive, which currently operates two apartment buildings with communal design; and WeGrow, which runs an elementary school in New York City. The switch is not a legal name change, the company said, nor will executive roles move around as a result. But the change aims to lay groundwork for making those three parts of the business more distinct in the future, potentially allowing for investors to focus on one instead of all three.

WeWork’s 7.875 percent bonds, which were issued in April, dropped to their lowest price ever — 86 cents — on Monday afternoon in New York, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The bonds are due in 2025.