2019-10-17 — forbes.com
If the last month made anything clear, it is that the New York-based startup has a business model that's doomed to fail. And yet SoftBank's Masayoshi Son and JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon are engaged in a tug of war over who gets to delay WeWork's demise.
Both billionaires erred in drinking Adam Neumann's Kool Aid that an office-sharing supplier was, somehow, a tech disruptor. Now, Son and Dimon are embroiled in a race to save face by rescuing a corporate boondoggle better left to die.
Dimon appears to be determined to perpetuate the myth of omnipotence bestowed on him in 2008. As Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers crashed, Wall Street executives faced existential crises. JP Morgan Chase avoided the worst the subprime debacle. Dimon played the role of white knight. There is reputational risk to admitting he got played by Neumann's we-are-a-game-changer spiel.
There's a good argument Son should walk away. Sure, WeWork accounts for 10% of his $100 billion Vision Fund. Son could write it off completely, apologize to shareholders and pivot elsewhere to raise returns.
Yet Son appears to be embracing Japan Inc.'s worst impulses by tossing a life-preserver at a drowning company. As the Nasdaq tech-IPO set hit a wall in the 1990s, Japan swung into bailout mode. Bureaucrats and business lobby bigwigs joined hands to stop any major company from going bust or being acquired by overseas executives.
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