Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, 41, is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand and Impact Officer of The We Company. She co-founded The We Company, which started out as WeWork, with her husband, CEO Adam Neumann.
She is also the Founder and CEO of WeGrow, a private education company under the umbrella of The We Company, and cousin of famous actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Rebekah was recently in the news due to an article by The Wall Street Journal that examined her and Adam’s “over-the-top”, unconventional, and impulsive management styles.
Ms. Neumann was originally slated to play a large role in choosing Mr. Neumann’s successor if the occasion ever arose but was removed from that role due to pushback from investors.
According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 13, “Any chief executive officer who succeeds Adam will be selected by our board of directors, acting as a group. We will not rely on a succession committee. Our board has the ability to remove our chief executive officer.”
The filing also described Rebekah as “a strategic thought partner to Adam” who “actively shaped the mission and strategy of The We Company and its global impact agenda, as well as being the primary voice and leading advocate for the We brand.” She has apparently “never been paid a salary” from WeWork.
Alton Brown of the Wall Street Journal detailed both Neumanns’ management techniques which included raucous, alcohol-fueled parties for their staff, firing 20% of employees per year to get rid of “B players”, and Mr. Neumann’s decision to ban meat from the offices despite the fact that he still eats it.
In one instance, Mr. Neumann laid off 7% of the staff at WeWork in 2016 and had a somber all-hands meeting to announce the decision and how the company needed to cut costs. Minutes later, employees brought trays of tequila shots into the room and Darryl McDaniels of hip-hop group Run-DMC played a set for the staff. The event left employees “stunned and confused.”
Rebekah Paltrow Neumann was born in Bedford, New York and attended Cornell University where she majored in Business and had a minor in Buddhism. She’s fluent in three languages and once toured with Michael Franti & Spearhead. She and Adam met in 2009 and the two started WeWork in 2010.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rebekah Paltrow Neumann Is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cousin
As evidenced by her name, Rebekah is the cousin of famous actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Neumann was interviewed by Paltrow for her lifestyle blog Goop where the two talked about Neumann’s inspiration behind WeGrow, the primary school run by WeWork.
“My husband and I were touring many, many elementary schools on both the East and West coasts for our eldest daughter.” She told Gwyneth, “We had a clear vision of the type of school we wanted her to attend—a place that would not only nurture growth in her mind but also her spirit, a place that had a real culture of kindness, where she would have a real connection to nature, and where her individual gifts, talents, and passions would be recognized and supported.”
WeGrow currently has one location in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City and costs students $42,000 per year to attend.
2. She Allegedly Fired Employees Because She Didn’t like Their “Energy”
Neumann has a reputation for incorporating spirituality and wellness into her management style at WeWork. According to her bio on the WeGrow website, she is a certified Jivamukti yoga instructor. Fast Company reported that she stayed with the monks in Dharamsal and once attended a birthday party for the Dalai Lama.
In an interview with Fast Company in 2016, Adam Neumann said she told him to stop talking about money and that “We’re going to talk about wellness, happiness, fulfillment, and if the money is supposed to follow, it will. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, because we will be happy and fulfilled.”
Ms. Neumann’s reliance on spirituality has resulted in some unconventional management tactics at The We Company. According to the Wall Street Journal, Neumann “ordered multiple employees fired after meeting them for just minutes, telling staff she didn’t like their energy.”
3. She Faced Backlash for Her Comments on Women
At a WeWork Summer Camp in 2018, Rebekah told the audience that “A big part of being a woman is to help men [like Adam] manifest their calling in life,” according to a report by Property Week.
Many employees in the crowd were upset at Neumann’s comments and her insinuation that a woman’s success must be tied to a man’s success.
After facing backlash on Twitter, WeWork released an additional quote to provide some context, “The reality that I see today is that there is nothing bigger that women can do, in my opinion, than empower their partners — and that can be a man, a woman, a friend, it doesn’t matter, but empower others.”
Neumann shared similar comments with Porter Magazine in a 2016 interview, “Women need to get to the right level for men to even have the opportunity to get there.”
“We create a place for them to rise to,” she added. “We have a really important role to play.”
4. She Used to Be an Actress
Rebekah Paltrow Neumann started out trading stocks at Salomon Smith Barney before her and Adam started WeWork in 2010. As the company was first growing, she had a brief acting career.
She appeared in three short films in 2010, “Fair Game” where she played a UN Diplomat (uncredited), and as “Rebekah Keith” in “Awake” and “Nómadas”. She also played “Rebekah Keith” in the 2012 short film “Aunt Louisa”. She left her acting career once WeWork started becoming successful.
She got back into film in 2014 when she executive produced the movie “I, Origins” and was an assistant producer on the movie “Free the Nipple”.
5. She’s Close Friends with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
According to Business Insider, Adam and Rebekah are close friends with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
The couples were thought to only be business partners but their ties go much deeper than that. The couples regularly dine together and send gifts to each other.
In addition, Adam and Rebekah wanted to invite Jared and Ivanka to Rebekah’s 40th birthday party in Italy. They ended up deciding against it after their advisors warned them about the optics of having the couple there. There were also issues with the security logistics required for Jared and Ivanka.
WeWork is a tenant in an office complex in Dumbo Heights, Brooklyn owned by Kushner Companies, the Kushner’s family real estate business.
Jared and Adam have reportedly taken tequila shots together and even engaged in an arm wrestling match to settle a dispute.
“I find Jared to be one of the most sophisticated real estate developers on earth,” Adam Neumann told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016, “A lot of times when I’m with Jared, I take cues from his behavior just to learn how to act. You know, just to act a little bit better myself because it’s always good to learn.”