Business Insider Edition

Chaos, crazy ideas, and cashing in: US president Donald Trump and WeWork's Adam Neumann have these 5 things in common

Theron Mohamed , Business Insider US
 Nov 14, 2019, 06:52 AM
  • President Donald Trump and the WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann have several things in common.
  • Both built huge brands, profited from their positions, voiced wild ideas, employed family members, and created crises.
  • Scroll down to read more about the pair's similarities.
  • Go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za for more stories.

Trump and Neumann are talented marketers

Both Trump and Neumann have built billion-dollar brands using a potent mix of charisma and clever marketing.

Trump parlayed his family wealth and reputation as a New York playboy and socialite into a licensing business, a real-estate empire, and reality-TV fame as the host of "The Apprentice."

His boisterous campaign rallies, catchy slogans such as "Make America Great Again" and "drain the swamp," and childish nicknames for opponents including "Low Energy Jeb" and "Lyin' Ted," helped him to secure the Republican presidential nomination and the White House.

Similarly, Neumann's powerful personality and grand vision of transforming how the world works helped him rally support and raise billions from investors. He turned WeWork into the largest private tenant in New York and London - with a valuation as high as $47 billion (R607 billion) - in less than a decade.

Neumann reportedly referred to JPMorgan's CEO as his "personal banker," Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon visited him to "kiss the ring," and the bosses of the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange traveled to the Hamptons to court WeWork's initial public offering.


Both men have been accused of self-dealing

Trump has been accused of putting personal interests ahead of the country, while Neumann has been accused of the same but in relation to his company.

Nearly 200 campaigns and political groups have spent more than $8 million (R118 million) at the president's resorts and other businesses since his election in 2016, according to Politico, citing a new report from the consumer-rights group Public Citizen.

Foreign dignitaries, lobbyists, lawmakers, executives, and most of Trump's Cabinet have stayed at or dined in the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Other examples include Vice President Mike Pence's stay at a Trump resort in Doonbeg, Ireland - 180 miles from his meetings in Dublin - and the president's recent attempt to host next year's G7 summit at Trump National Doral in Florida, claiming his administration had vetted several locations but settled on his struggling resort as the best option. He backed down under pressure from Republicans and the media.

Neumann reportedly cashed out about $700 million (R10 billion) by selling and borrowing against WeWork stock, made millions by leasing properties to his company - giving him conflicting interests as both tenant and landlord - and sold the rights to the "We" name to WeWork for close to $6 million (R89 million) (he ultimately returned that payment).

Neumann has reportedly agreed a $1.7 billion (R25 billion) golden parachute as part of SoftBank's bailout of WeWork too. The exit package includes nearly $1 billion (R14 billion) for most of his stock, $500 million (R7 billion) in credit to help him pay off personal loans, and $185 million (R2.7 billion) in consulting fees.

At the same time, WeWork employees have seen the value of their stock options plunge since the company scrapped its plans to go public, and they are bracing for thousands of layoffs.


The pair often voice bizarre ideas

Trump and Neumann share a habit of making wild predictions and outlandish claims.

The president wanted to buy Greenland and reportedly suggested that the US military nuke hurricanes to disrupt them before they make landfall. He's also spread numerous conspiracies: He claimed President Barack Obama wasn't born in the US and accused him of wire-tapping his phone, suggested Sen. Ted Cruz's father was involved in President John F. Kennedy's assassination, and blamed mass voter fraud for his loss of the popular vote in the 2016 election.

Neumann reportedly floated the idea of a WeWork on water called WeSail, eliminated meat from company events for environmental reasons, and hoped to live forever and become a trillionaire and president of the world.


They love nepotism

Trump and Neumann have no problem mixing business with family.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, serve as advisers to the president, while his sons Donald Jr. and Eric are trustees and executive vice presidents of the Trump Organisation. Both of Trump's eldest sons have been accused of leveraging his presidency to strike business deals around the world.

Similarly, Neumann's cofounder and wife, Rebekah, was WeWork's chief brand and impact officer and a member of the succession committee tasked with appointing her husband's successor. WeWork also employed Neumann's brother-in-law as its head of wellness and paid one of his immediate family members to host eight company-related events last year.


Both men create problems for themselves

Trump and Neumann have sowed chaos and caused mayhem.

Trump's businesses have filed for bankruptcy on six occasions, and his administration has sparked numerous scandals and suffered a steady exodus of senior officials. The president now faces the prospect of impeachment over accusations that he withheld military support to Ukraine in an attempt to dig up dirt on the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Neumann's personal interests, relentless pursuit of growth, and splurging of company cash reportedly threw WeWork into disarray. The company plunged from a $47 billion (R697 billion) valuation in January to less than $8 billion (R118 billion) last month after investors railed against its questionable business model, mushrooming losses, limited governance, and Neumann's controversial behavior. Its decision to scrap its IPO left it short of cash, leading to Neumann stepping down as CEO, an overhaul of the company, and a rescue deal from SoftBank.

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