WeWork names new head of Japan operations after management purge

  • Corporate News
  • Thursday, 03 Oct 2019

TOKYO: WeWork named a new head of its Japanese operations, replacing a company veteran with close ties to former chief executive officer Adam Neumann(pic).

Kazuyuki Sasaki, the former managing director of WeWork Japan, has been named its new CEO, the company said in a statement yesterday. Sasaki replaces Chris Hill, who has headed Japan operations since their start in 2017 and also served as chief product officer of WeWork parent The We Co.

Hill was reported to be among several executives that left the company after Neumann stepped down last week under pressure from spooked investors. WeWork declined to comment on whether Hill, Neumann’s brother-in-law, is still with the company.

While WeWork doesn’t disclose revenues by region, Japan is one of the company’s most important markets, not least because the country is home to its biggest shareholder -- SoftBank Group Corp. The Japanese conglomerate led by Masayoshi Son and his US$100bil Vision Fund have collectively poured about $10.7 billion into the co-working startup, including US$500mil for a 50% stake in the Japan joint venture. With that cash, WeWork Japan expanded into 21 locations across five cities in just 20 months. It is also designing SoftBank’s new headquarters on the Tokyo waterfront.

WeWork, valued at as much as US$47bil at its peak, stumbled when it tried to go public as investors balked at its vertiginous valuation and unconventional governance practices. SoftBank was the key driver behind Neumann’s resignation. Son is also tapping SoftBank Group chief operating officer Marcelo Claure to help turn the company around at a time when WeWork faces a liquidity crunch.

The management shakeout targeting Neumann’s inner circle has also claimed the jobs of Michael Gross, the company’s vice chair, and Wendy Silverstein, the co-head of its real estate investment arm. Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, who was a WeWork co-founder as well as its chief brand and impact officer, also departed last month. — Bloomberg

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