Pasadena the Scene for High Stakes Corporate Drama with Billions at Stake

Published : Monday, September 23, 2019 | 6:23 PM

When long-term tenants at The Langham Huntington Hotel were reportedly told last week to stay away from the property for several days, and suddenly men in suits with bomb-sniffing dogs showed up scrutinizing the hotel’s perimeters, it was only natural for some to assume that President Trump would be stopping in Pasadena on his southland swing.

Rumors swirled that the entire hotel had been fully booked and a special chef was installing himself in the Langham’s kitchens, complete with his own crew.

But President Trump wasn’t coming.

Instead, The Langham was apparently the scene of a high-stakes, James Bondian gathering of 100 chief executive officers playing roles against the backdrop of an international corporate struggle involving billions of dollars, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and one of its most pricey, high-profile investments, WeWork.

According to multiple press accounts, WeWork’s “money people,” including SoftBank, are less-than-pleased with the company’s CEO Adam Neumann.

WeWork recently delayed its Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock, which did not go over well in the SoftBank boardroom. That IPO would have been just the ticket for SoftBank as it hunts down cash for its newest fund. Worse, the Bank had invested earlier in WeWorks at a $47 billion valuation which now seems to have been a grandiose overestimation of its worth.

WeWork’s founder Neumann’s declined to visit Pasadena for the showdown.

Reports of Neumann’s demise are premature but some kind of ousting may be in the offing.

If a second-hand account from is to be believed, the Langham was rendezvous point for the aforementioned confab of CEOs from companies SoftBank has sunk money into or does business with.

This particular assemblage comprise the constituent parts of the Vision Fund, which is SoftBank’s tech venture capital pool.

The soiree-conference, which featured the musical talents of the legend John Legend, was thrown by SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son.

There were regular conference sessions, according to the accounts. One involved Son and BlackRock Inc., CEO Larry Fink interviewing each other.

None of these involved the shifting situation at WeWork and Neumann was not one of the CEO’s present, despite WeWork being a major recipient of SoftBank monies.

The report intimates that “Masa” supports Neumann, but is being pressured by others at SoftBank about the WeWork exec’s management style, and the mounting losses of the entity he is directing.

Reuters news service was less circumspect in its speculation, claiming that four anonymous sources attested to the fact SoftBank wants Neumann out.

According to Reuters, SoftBank was looking to WeWork, a fair-haired child of an investment, to bolster profits that would ease the launch of a new, second Vision Fund.

It is all unfounded, unconfirmed speculation awaiting some real action by the WeWork board against its chief executive, which Reuters said, could happen this week.





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