WeWork’s public image is most closely associated with Adam Neumann, its reckless and charismatic co-founder, and his wife Rebekah, a yoga instructor slash actress credited with bringing a New Age, “woo woo” energy to the company. But there was a third party involved in creating the real estate coworking startup: co-founder Miguel McKelvey, who was the design expert on the operation.
McKelvey’s the background is in the architecture: He majored in it at the University of Oregon and was working at a Brooklyn-based architecture firm when he met Neumann at a party in the late 2000s. The two founded WeWork together in 2010, with McKelvey serving as cultural director in addition to leading construction, architecture, and web design. As the company grew, Neumann gravitated to the spotlight while McKelvey worked behind the scenes. “While Miguel was focusing on more cultural things, Adam was focusing, frankly, on the headline-grabbing things,” said a former executive who asked to remain anonymous. Forbes. “The value was created in Adam’s ability to raise funds from [WeWork investor Masayoshi Son]in which Miguel did not participate directly.
When WeWork attempted to go public in late 2019, many questions arose about both the company’s financial viability and Neumann’s leadership. Alleged employees that he frequently used the WeWork company jet, showed up to meetings drunk or hungover, and made generally outlandish statements about WeWork’s expansion to other planets. The work environment has been described as a toxic culture and “entitled, frat boy”. Those reports, coupled with WeWork’s financial troubles, led investors to pull out, driving the company’s valuation from $47 billion to around $9 billion and leaving it in crisis.
Much of the fallout has focused on Neumann, who stepped down as CEO after facing pressure from WeWork’s board of directors and agreeing to a $1.7 billion separation deal. McKelvey, on the other hand, managed to stay out of the headlines during the controversy. After Softbank, a Japanese technology investment fund led by one of Neumann’s biggest allies and investors, took control of the company, McKelvey remained on the team for another nine months to support the transition. He officially left WeWork in June 2020making him one of the last former executives to come out.
McKelvey kept a low profile in the years that followed. He is not very active on social networks, nor does he share much of his personal life online. Corn his LinkedIn page reveals that in November 2021, he became an advisor at Known, a company he describes as “a new financial platform serving the multi-trillion dollar economy powered by communities of color.” Specifically, Known aims to help Black, Latino and Indigenous entrepreneurs establish their own companies and financial funds providing them with financial support, business development and other resources. Actor Kyle Marvin stars as McKelvey in new AppleTV+ series We crashedwhich depicts the rise and fall of WeWork.