The board of WeWork, the cash-starved purveyor of shared office space, could choose between two competing financial rescue packages as early as Tuesday, according to people with knowledge of the matter. One is being offered by SoftBank, and another from a financial consortium led by JPMorgan Chase.
SoftBank, a Japanese technology giant that is already the largest outside shareholder in WeWork, is offering to take a controlling stake by accelerating a $1.5 billion investment it had planned to make next year and by buying up to $3 billion in shares held by other investors, two people said. SoftBank is also offering to put together loans totaling $5 billion from a consortium of financial institutions, including itself.
JPMorgan’s proposal consists of several parts, including new bonds, some of which would carry high interest rates, according to a person with knowledge of its plans. That package could add up to roughly $5 billion.
The potential cash infusion comes at a critical time for WeWork, which scrapped an initial public offering last month after Wall Street balked at its huge losses — it had an operating loss of $1.4 billion in the first six months of the year on revenue of $1.5 billion.
WeWork’s charismatic chief executive, Adam Neumann, was ousted shortly before the IPO’s withdrawal as skepticism about the company’s long-term viability mounted. There was also investor concern about an unconventional corporate governance structure that gave Neumann enormous control.
Once one of the world’s most celebrated startups, WeWork was valued by SoftBank at $47 billion in January but had considered selling shares in its initial public offering at a valuation as low as $15 billion. SoftBank’s latest offer to the company values it at a little less than $8 billion.
Under Neumann’s leadership, the company expanded so fast that it is the largest private tenant in Manhattan and a major force in London, San Francisco and other big cities.
In recent weeks, it has been seeking to raise billions of dollars to keep going. In its IPO filing, WeWork said it had $2.5 billion in cash at the end of June but also revealed that it was burning through hundreds of millions of dollars every month.