2019-11-18 — fastcompany.com
``... there was a third man in the mix, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Bin Salman was Son's biggest investor. Two years earlier, he'd put in nearly half the capital, $45 billion, to launch Son's $100 billion Vision Fund, a brash and controversial investment vehicle fueling the world's biggest startups, including WeWork, Uber, DoorDash, and ByteDance. In October, the prince would say publicly that he intended to put up another $45 billion. He was also expecting Son in Riyadh later in the month, at a Saudi financial conference known as Davos in the Desert. Neumann was invited, too, even though, as an Israeli citizen, he wasn't officially allowed in the Islamic country.
Then news broke on October 3 that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi had vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Almost immediately, bin Salman was implicated. As gruesome details emerged--a bone saw, body parts removed in suitcases--it didn't take long for investors or the general public to take issue with SoftBank's connection to the Saudi money. The company's stock plummeted 20%, losing some $20 billion in value.
It was during this time, as pressures on SoftBank's stock price and Son's biggest backer mounted, that Son began to rethink his offer to Neumann. The pair had been arguing over who would ultimately control WeWork when the deal was done. On Christmas Eve, Son called Neumann to break the news that the deal they'd planned was off. Neumann was stunned and upset, and still desperate for cash. He managed to negotiate a revised $2 billion deal. Still feeling pressure for more capital, Neumann made another fateful move. On December 28, 2018, he filed confidential documents registering WeWork for an initial public offering.
Neither man knew it at that moment, but the move started a death clock ticking.
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