September 13, 2019 / 11:29 AM / a month ago

REFILE-UPDATE 2-WeWork curbs CEO's voting power in bid to boost IPO prospects

(Fixes typographical error in paragraph 7)

By Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin

Sept 13 (Reuters) - WeWork owner The We Company said on Friday it has curbed the voting power of founder and CEO Adam Neumann, part of changes to its corporate governance aimed at reviving demand for its planned initial public offering.

The office space sharing start-up said it was making the changes "in response to market feedback" as the company considers seeking a valuation in the IPO for less than half what it was worth just nine months ago in the face of lukewarm demand.

Loss-making We Company said Neumann's superior voting shares will decrease to 10 votes per share from 20, it said in a regulatory filing, though he will still retain majority control of the company.

Neumann will also give the company any profits he receives from real estate deals he has entered into with We Company. He will also limit his ability to sell shares in the second and third years after the IPO to no more than 10% of his stock.

No member of Neumann's family will be on the company's board and any successor will be selected by the board, scraping a plan for his wife and co-founder Rebekah Neumann, who is chief brand and impact officer, to help pick the successor.

It disclosed its will list shares on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. It plans to complete the IPO as early as this month, Reuters has reported.

This is the second effort to repair damage done to its image among investors, having earlier this month added a new member, Frances Frei, to its all-male board and said Neumann would return a $5.9 million payment for use of the trademarked word "We."

It remains to be seen whether the changes will be enough to allay broader investor worries about the sustainability of We Company's business model, which relies on a mix of long-term liabilities and short-term revenue. Investors have questions how successfully such a model would weather an economic downturn.

The head of an investment firm which was an early investor in WeWork said they were unsure if the latest moves would have a significant impact on the valuation the company will fetch in the IPO. The person requested anonymity as they are not allowed to speak publicly about portfolio companies.

We Company may seek a valuation of as low as $15 billion in its IPO, down from the $47 billion value it commanded in its last private fundraising round in January, and plans to begin its investor roadshow as early as Monday, Reuters reported this week.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore and Joshua Franklin in New York; editing by Jason Neely and Nick Zieminski

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