TV is full of eccentric characters – Latka Gravas from “Taxi,” Phoebe Buffay from “Friends,” “The Office’s” Dwight Schrute, the entire Bluth family from “Arrested Development” . . . But Adam Neumann (Jared Leto), the enigmatic figure at the center of the new Apple TV+ series “WeCrashed,” is based upon a real person, and, believe it or not, the show quite accurately represents his more outlandish quirks. The unconventional CEO/co-founder of WeWork, the shared office start-up with a cultish atmosphere, did once attempt to peddle knee pads for babies, was known for walking around the city of New York barefoot and did indeed grow up on a kibbutz in Israel, the latter of which shaped the sense of community he attempted to foster in his co-working environments.
Founded in 2010, WeWork proved an instant phenom, garnering a $1.3 billion valuation by 2013 and attracting such high-profile investors as JPMorgan Chase, Benchmark Captial and Masayoshi Son of SoftBank. The company’s fall from grace happened just as swiftly. Thanks to the prioritization of rapid growth and Neumann’s ferocious spending, WeWork bled through money as quickly as it came in. As NYU Stern School of Business Professor of Marketing Scott Galloway colorfully stated in the 2021 Hulu documentary “WeWork: Or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn,” “This was a company that was burning, at one point, $100 million a week. Think about this – you could buy two Bombardier Global Expresses at $50 million each, crash both into a mountain and that was the burn every week of this company!” Despite being “the second-largest shared office space provider” in 2018, according to Statista, and counting a whopping 6.5 million square feet of workspace in its portfolio, the company went from reaching an ultimate valuation of $47 billion to facing bankruptcy in just a matter of weeks the following year.
Neumann was forced to step down as CEO soon after, though he walked away (probably barefoot) with a $1.7 billion payout. WeWork managed to sustain under new leadership, following a restructuring and a series of massive layoffs, and is still going strong today with 800 locations currently in operation worldwide. Still, the story is generally viewed as a cautionary one.
The fictionalized retelling of the astonishing tale, which hit Apple TV+ last Friday and is scheduled to run through April 22, is gripping, though many are complaining it is far too sympathetic to both Adam and his wife, Rebekah Neumann (Anne Hathaway). Regardless, its locations are certainly noteworthy!
Set and filmed against the backdrop of a bustling Manhattan, “WeCrashed” makes use of several New York and New Jersey locales (though the colorful office that serves as WeWork’s “galactic headquarters” was just a set built at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens). Rebekah’s dream building, where Adam purchases a grand penthouse at the outset of his success, is exactly where the series purports it to be – overlooking Gramercy Park at 1 Lexington Ave. In episode two, Neumann and his business partner, architect Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin), interview potential employees at the New York City Bagel & Coffee House outpost at 29-10 Broadway in Astoria.