Adam Neumann, WeWork CEO, wants all the waves. Photo: Getty Images
Another Billionaire Invests In Surf
...With wavepools and health as targets.
There's an old myth about sharks smelling a single drop of blood in the water from over a mile away. Voracious predators, they'll come roaring in from the depths in search of flesh, ready to feast on anything in their path.
It's not true. The toothy critters have a keen sense of smell, but no more so than most fish. Sharks are typically benign, graceful creatures that glide about our lovely oceans hoping they'll stumble across an easy meal.
Only humans possess that preternatural ability to recognize weakness from afar and pounce without hesitation. Witnessing a pack of billionaires in a feeding frenzy is a truly terrifying experience. Eyes rolled back in their skulls, jaws agape, devouring everything that might reap a profit. It's a stunning display of soulless carnage.
The surf world has been well and truly chummed over the course of the last decade, waters slick with the blood of a struggling industry, and the billionaires have come to feed.
Ziff owns the Tour, Oaktree snatched up Quik, Bong, and the lion's share of their subsidiaries. Print mags are being stripped to their bones by tabloid scum. Real money is on the scene and nothing can stand in its way.
The most recent arrival from the tier of the 1% is WeWork, a company that leases shared work spaces to startups that can't afford the cost of private offices. Headed by chief executive Adam Neumann, reportedly an 'avid surfer,' WeWork has a $47 billion valuation and is the largest lessee in New York City.
WeWork has been so successful in finding private investment, most notably $10 billion from SoftBank, a Japanese multinational holding conglomerate, that it has grown into the We Company and spun off WeSleep, WeWork, WeBank, WeSail, and WeGrow.
The last is a private elementary school located inside a New York City WeWork office. Priced at $42,000 a year, WeGrow's mission is to “mold the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
"In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," says Rebekah Neumann, Chief Brand Officer of WeWork.
In addition, the Neumanns have made investments in the surf world. The first, previously unreported, took place in 2016 when We Company purchased a forty-two percent stake in Wavegarden for $13.8 million, an investment which has since been written off.
More recently the company purchased an undisclosed stake in Laird Hamilton's eponymously named, Laird Superfood, for a staggering $32 million. Whether this makes ol' Lance Burkhart the richest professional surfer of all time is unknown, but it's gotta bump him towards the top of the list. Who knew there was so much money in blueberries and chia seeds?
Neumann also employed company funds to purchase a $60 million private jet, which he then used to take a surf trip to Hawaii.
Private flights to the Seven Mile Miracle and ownership in wavepool tech- it's a surfer's dream come true. At least it is according to my boss, Sam McIntosh. “The fact that he bought a wavepool company or goes to Hawaii for a weekend on a private jet to surf is fucking brilliant. What else would you do with your cash should you get B-flushed?”
I like to think that I'd piss my money away on elaborate The Magic Christian-style pranks while continuing to fly commercial. After all, isn't the best part of having money lording that fact over those who don't? Sitting comfortably in your first class seat, cocktail in hand, while looking down your nose at all the plebs shuffling past toward their cattle yard is an amazing experience.
Of course, if you fly private, you get to skip TSA and bring all the drugs, weapons, and trafficked humans you want. That's definitely a quality perk.
Like all successful individuals, Neumann has his detractors. Gene Munster, an investor at venture capitalist firm Loup Ventures, told The Wall Street Journal that We Company's investments outside their core business model is “...concerning because you are mingling personal and company interests and that rarely turns out well. Public investors are less tolerant of this.”
But We Company is privately-held and Neumann controls the company board with a majority vote. So he can do pretty much whatever he wants. Even if that includes surf trips on the company dime, brainwashing children with entrepreneurial rhetoric, or quietly buying up properties and then leasing them back to your own company, ensuring that you make money both coming and going.