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WeWork Founder Taps Defamation Lawyer to Help Reshape Image (2)

Oct. 13, 2021, 9:46 AMUpdated: Oct. 13, 2021, 4:46 PM

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is turning to a heavyweight defamation lawyer in an effort to shape the narrative around his ouster from the workspace sharing company as it takes another shot at going public.

Neumann hired attorney Tom Clare to combat suggestions that Neumann engaged in criminal activity during his rollercoaster stint at the co-working giant, according to a contract reviewd by Bloomberg Law. Clare convinced HBO Max to revise its description of Neumann in an episode of the forthcoming series “Generation Hustle,” Clare and an HBO Max representative told Bloomberg Law.

“Adam has been quiet for the last 18 months or so,” Clare said. “What has unfortunately happened is this false narrative has taken hold. We’re not going to allow him to be described as a criminal.”

Clare is currently representing Dominion Voting Systems Inc. in multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuits against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, over claims that the company helped rig the 2020 election for President Joe Biden.

His work for Neumann comes as WeWork is set to debut on the New York Stock Exchange later this month at a reported valuation of $9 billion. This time around, the company is looking to go public by merging with BowX, a special purpose acquisition company.

Neumann hired Clare in January, according to a contract viewed by Bloomberg Law, some two months before the BowX deal was announced publicly.

The deal earn Neumann shares worth $245 million, if the IPO is successful, in addition to a settlement with investor SoftBank that is reported to include some $580 million in stock, cash, and money for legal fees.

The settlement came in a dispute over the Japanese company’s decision to back out of a deal to buy $3 billion in WeWork stock, including a reported $960 million in Neumann’s shares. A push to take WeWork public was scuttled in 2019 amid criticism of the company’s business model and oversight.

The company’s business model has not changed much since that time, according to Jay Ritter, a University of Florida finance professor. WeWork continues to lease space long-term and rent that space to users short-term, which the pandemic has shown can be a recipe for disaster if demand plummets, he said.

WeWork recently said that its monthly revenue jumped to $223 million in September, a high for the year. It is also reportedly on track to report $1.5 billion in losses this year.

“There is some upside potential here, but overall investors are not real enthusiastic about this deal at the value that the SPAC is placing on it,” Ritter said.

‘True-Crime’ Changes

HBO Max revised its description of “Generation Hustle,” a series in which different alleged fraudsters are profiled in each episode, to remove a reference to “true-crime capers.” It also updated the epilogue in the episode devoted to Neumann—which indicates that “federal and state investigators are looking into Adam’s business dealings"—to also state that “no criminal or regulatory charges have been filed.”

Clare is a self-described conservative, whose other clients have included Project Veritas and gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League. He and his wife—lawyer Libby Locke—left Kirkland & Ellis to set up their own law firm in 2014.

He said the boutique setting allows him to avoid the conflicts of interest likely at big firms that often count media companies and conglomerates among their clients.

Clare said he has sought changes to reports from a handful of media outlets on Neumann’s behalf, but has yet to file suit.

“We are looking closely at the coverage out there,” he said.

(Updated with additional information on the timing of Clare's hiring.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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