... a juicy guided tour through the highly leveraged, not-quite-rags-to-billion-dollar-parachute saga of WeWork and its co-founder Adam Neumann ... separates itself from Billion Dollar Loser by quickly passing over Neumann’s upbringing and experiences on kibbutzim and in the Israeli military, as well as the origins and earliest days of WeWork...Instead, the book saves its firepower for the cataclysmic combination of Neumann’s gift for salesmanship, addiction to fund-raising and focus on his personal wealth ... Brown and Farrell show an agility for explaining key business dynamics that are crucial both to understanding specific moments in WeWork’s trajectory, and also to grasping the role of public and private investors in the company’s successes and failures. They do so without slowing down the narrative or overdoing it such that readers well versed in business might find it boring or pedantic ... a book that calls for keeping a pen handy so you can write in the margins, giving the Greek chorus in your head a place to pop off ... also very funny, with Brown and Farrell employing wry juxtaposition and understatement to enjoyable effect ... The narrative is written straight through, with Brown and Farrell rarely breaking in to attribute their reporting to specific sources. Instead, that information is packed into extensive notes at the end of the book. It may make the nearly 400 pages brisker to read for some, but I was frequently toggling back and forth to try to surmise how the authors knew what they were telling me .... coming out months after other storytellers have framed the WeWork saga with their own focuses and flourishes. But Brown and Farrell’s book may be the most perfectly timed. As much of the white-collar work force enjoys (or tolerates) its final weeks of working from home, we (I think I’m allowed to use 'we' in this context without paying anyone) are preparing to re-engage with our crumbs-in-the-keyboard cubicle culture.
... the real meat of The Cult Of We, and what sets it apart from previous recitations of this story, is the skill and clarity with which Brown and Farrell describe the economic and financial environment that made WeWork’s absurd peak valuation of $47 billion possible in the first place ... Brown and Farrell’s big-picture view charting the arc of the company serves them well but lost is any real impression of what it might have been like to work there, especially at a level lower than an executive. Some examples, like a lament that high-ranking officials sometimes had to fly coach, elicit scoffs. The glimpses one gets of those below the C-suite, including a manager who was fired because they left one of WeWork’s mandatory hard-charging festivals early, suggest a disturbing situation, but The Cult Of We only scratches the surface ... Still, Brown and Farrell’s book provides essential insight into the opaque mechanics of how a private company builds astronomical valuation, and the twisted feedback loop that motivates people not to solve obvious problems. There is little indication that any powerful players have actually learned their lesson here, but at least we’re now better equipped to understand their mistakes.
... absorbing ... The Cult of We is both a ticktock of Neumann’s self-immolation and a primer on the ways and mores of a start-up culture populated by visionaries, grifters and moneymen ... Although Brown and Farrell tell the tale of WeWork with great understatement—they mostly try to stay out of its way—they are merciless in their depiction of Neumann as a figure of endless hubris and cartoonish whims ... The Cult of We is novelistic in detail and often thrilling, though its ending is never in doubt: It’s like watching a car careening toward a wall at 90 miles an hour ... Neumann isn’t enigmatic, he’s just awful in a way that is unfailingly interesting but never surprising—charismatic White men with good hair have always been able to get away with a lot.