Business

WeWork adds woman to board, CEO returns $8.2m

NEW YORK : WeWork owner, The We Company, took steps on Wednesday to burnish its appeal to investors ahead of its initial public offering (IPO) by adding a woman, academic Frances Frei, to its all-male board and announcing that its chief executive officer (CEO) would return a US$5.9 million (S$8.2 million) payment for use of the trademarked word "We".

The moves follow investor criticism of We Company's IPO filing last month, which revealed extensive and unusual ties between the office space sharing start-up and its controlling shareholder, Mr Adam Neumann, including him being a landlord to the company on some properties.

Corporate governance advocates cautioned that We Company's latest steps may not be enough to quell concerns about Mr Neumann's grip on the company, cemented by a multi-class share structure designed to give him operational control.

Professor Frei, from Harvard Business School (technology and operations management), will join WeWork's board once it completes the IPO, planned for later this month.

We Company had planned to go public with an all-male seven-member board, a practice major investors such as BlackRock frown upon, saying more diverse boards make better decisions.

The deal to pay Mr Neumann for use of the "We" trademark came after the decision to rebrand WeWork as The We Company earlier this year.

WeWork has helped popularise the concept of shared office space. It was valued at US$47 billion earlier this year. - REUTERS

BUSINESS & FINANCE