由軟銀支持的共享辦公室公司WeWork正在計劃以一種很少見的股權結構上市。與傳統的股權結構相比，這種結構將為公司的創始人和早期投資人帶來稅收上的優勢。根據《金融時報》看到的相關文件，這家創業公司（正式名稱叫The We Company）將采取所謂的“傘型合伙公司”結構，簡稱“Up-C”結構。
The We Company的股權調整預計在IPO之前就會完成。它的現有架構本身就是要為WeWork向健身和其他業務領域的擴張提供一個“保護傘”。而在這次調整后，The We Company有限責任公司將被置于另一家控股公司之下。IPO投資者將會獲得這家控股公司的股份，而不是直接獲得The We Company有限責任公司的股份。而CEO亞當·諾伊曼等WeWork的創始人和早期投資人則能夠直接獲得The We Company有限責任公司的股權。WeWork的利潤則會在控股公司和有限責任公司之間分享。
復興資本的高級IPO市場戰略師馬修·肯尼迪表示：“這也是一種讓內部人受益的做法。‘Up-C’結構創造了一種稅收保護機制，公司內部人可以以此為自己謀求利益。這樣一來，該公司本來可以省下來的現金也就沒有了，而且The We Company還得向美國國稅局繳納更多的稅款。”
The We Company拒絕了我們的置評請求。
當然，除非有朝一日The We Company扭虧為盈了，否則這一切都沒有意義。而許多觀察人士都認為，The We Company在短期內沒有任何盈利的可能。2018年，The We Company的虧損達到19.3億美元。外界還擔心，在大環境日益低迷的背景下，WeWork的大量長期租約是否會令它面臨更大的風險。就連它目前的租用率也嚴重依賴于風投資本提供的巨額補貼。另外，外界對它的杠桿率也很擔心，有些銀行甚至拒絕讓WeWork完全出租他們貸款的辦公樓。
WeWork, the SoftBank-backed office-leasing-and-other-stuff company, is planning to go to public markets with an exotic corporate structure that gives founders and early investors a tax advantage compared to public investors. According to documents seen by the Financial Times, the startup (formally The We Company), will become what’s known as an umbrella partnership corporation, or Up-C.
The structure is being put in place ahead of an expected IPO. It would put the We Company MC LLC—already intended to be an umbrella for WeWork’s expansion into fitness and other ventures—under a holding company. IPO investors would get shares in the holding company rather than directly in the LLC, while founders and early investors including CEO Adam Neumann would have direct stakes in the LLC. Profits would be shared between the LLC and the holding company.
The upshot is that Neumann and other insiders with direct stakes in the LLC would pay taxes on profits at individual income tax rates, while IPO investors would pay both US taxes on corporate profits, and individual taxes on any dividends.
“This is another move that enriches insiders,” said Matthew Kennedy, Senior IPO Market Strategist at Renaissance Capital. “Up-C creates a tax shield, and insiders are taking that benefit for themselves. So the cash savings that the company would have had are gone, and We Co. will therefore be making higher payments to the IRS.”
The We Company declined a request for comment on the report.
Of course, none of this would seem to matter unless We manages to someday turn a profit, which many observers consider a longshot at best. The We Company’s losses for 2018 were $1.93 billion, and there are concerns over whether its raft of long-term leases leave it even more exposed in the case of a broader downturn. Even its current occupancy rates depend on huge subsidies funded by venture capital, and there’s enough concern about the company’s leverage that some banks have refused to let WeWork fully lease buildings they finance.
While being leveraged to the hilt is par for the course for tech startups (and even for real estate companies valued like tech startups), the tax maneuvering adds to more uniquely troubling hints of a culture of self-dealing by We Company leadership. Among the claims: that CEO Neumann had personally made millions by leasing real estate he owned to the company. In July, it was revealed that Neumann had liquidated more than $700 million worth of his stake in the company through a mix of sales and loans against stock.
It will quickly become clear how investors feel about these moves: An IPO could reportedly happen as soon as September.