Frances Frei Becomes First Female To Join WeWork Board

By Annie Baker ● September 5, 2019
  • As The We Company is pushing forward towards an IPO, the company has hired former Uber executive Frances Frei as its first female board member

Frances Frei, a former executive at Uber that helped clean up the image of the on-demand transportation network following the departure of co-founder Travis Kalanick, has joined the board at shared real estate space company The We Company (WeWork). WeWork is reportedly planning to go public later this year, but there have been a few road bumps along the way.

The addition of Frei to the board was revealed in an updated S-1 filing. In the S-1, it also pointed out that Frei is also a professor at Harvard Business School.

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“Frances Frei will join our board of directors upon the completion of this offering. She currently serves as a Professor of Technology and Operations Management at Harvard Business School, and has provided human resources consulting services to The We Company since March 2019. Frances previously served as Senior Vice President of Leadership and Strategy at Uber Technologies, Inc. Frances brings to our board of directors extensive experience researching and advising on corporate strategy, operations and culture, which our board of directors believes gives her particular insight into strategic planning and leadership,” says the updated S-1.

Once Frei had coached the executive team at Uber, then she turned her attention to the managers at the company in order to prevent a toxic work culture from spreading.

This past year, a number of human resources executives departed from The We Company due to disagreements with WeWork co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann or chief operating officer Jen Berrent.

Last month, The We Company received criticism for its lack of a female board of director. The We Company is also going to hire another board of director that will increase its gender and ethnic diversity.

The corporate structure and financial statements at The We Company has also been criticized. Back in July, Business Insider published an article about how The We Company loses $219,000 every hour of every day.

Some of the questionable practices include Neumann reportedly setting up a “hardship” fund for employees at a startup that shut down 7 months after he invested in the company. And WeWork had replaced 43 million of Neumann’s stock options with special “profits interests.”

Apparently, Neumann also owned the trademark for “we” and he was going to be compensated by The We Company for that. Those partnership interests — which had a “fair market value” of about $5.9 million — were returned to the We Company.

Here is how the updated S-1 filing explains it:

“In July 2019, WE Holdings LLC (in which Adam is a managing member) assigned to us any rights that it possessed related to ‘we’ family trademarks, which we desired to obtain following our rebranding in early 2019. In consideration of this contribution, we issued to WE Holdings LLC partnership interests in the We Company Partnership with a fair market value of approximately $5.9 million. Subsequently, at Adam’s direction, the issuance to WE Holdings LLC of the partnership interests was unwound and the partnership interests were returned to the We Company Partnership. The We Company continues to hold all of the assigned rights to the ‘we’ family trademarks.”

There are also reports that Neumann also cashed out of $700 million through company stock and loan agreements already. While selling large amounts of his stake in the company and borrowing his holdings, it makes analysts question whether Neumann is skeptical about the long-term potential of the company. But sources close to Neumann are saying that this shows how optimistic he is about the company’s future. Either way, it is a unique way of conducting business.

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