U.S. markets closed

SoftBank drops plan to pump $3 bn into WeWork

SoftBank cited the existence of 'multiple, new, and significant pending criminal and civil investigations' surrounding WeWork and its co-founder Adam Neumann (AFP Photo/SCOTT OLSON)

Japanese global tech investor SoftBank Group said on Thursday it had terminated a deal to buy up to $3 billion WeWork shares as part of a restructuring of the office-sharing startup.

The company said "certain conditions to the tender offer were not satisfied" but added the decision would have "no impact on WeWork's operations, customers, five-year business and strategic plan, or the vast majority of WeWork's current employees."

The announcement came after reports of a nagging rift between SoftBank Group and WeWork board members over the rescue package for the global office-sharing giant.

Among a list of unmet conditions, SoftBank cited "the existence of multiple, new, and significant pending criminal and civil investigations" surrounding WeWork and its co-founder Adam Neumann.

The Japanese conglomerate also pointed to the global impact of the pandemic which is restricting WeWork's operations as well as a lack of the necessary antitrust approvals.

The board of the US firm said it was considering a lawsuit to force SoftBank to live up to the agreement.

A special committee of the board said in a statement it was "surprised and disappointed at this development, and remains committed to reaching a resolution that is in the best interest of WeWork and its minority shareholders, including WeWork's employees and former employees."

The board "will evaluate all of its legal options, including litigation," the statement said.

- Dramatic turn -

Rob Townsend, SoftBank Group's senior vice president and chief legal officer, stressed the company's continued commitment to WeWork.

"The tender offer closing was conditioned on the satisfaction of certain closing conditions... Several of those conditions were not met, leaving SoftBank no choice but to terminate the tender offer," he said in a statement.

The decision was yet another dramatic turn of events at troubled WeWork, once hailed as a shining unicorn valued at $47 billion. The firm quickly lost cash, cancelled its share offering and Neumann was pushed out -- albeit with a generous package.

The tender offer would have most benefited Neumann, his family, and major institutional stockholders like Benchmark Capital, SoftBank Group said.

The deal also would allocate some $450 million to current or former WeWork employees, according to people familiar with the plan.

SoftBank Group has been trying to restore its financial health after booking massive losses related to the performance of some investments including WeWork and Uber.

The company and its Vision Fund have been aggressively buying the world's top tech start-ups, but some have ended up disappointing.

They have already committed more than $14.25 billion to WeWork.

Meanwhile, WeWork's office locations have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic which has triggered lockdowns of major urban districts, including business hubs in New York and California.

Public health measures have kept many workers at home, leaving many of WeWork's office spaces empty.