Why WeWork is suddenly focused on slow, sustainable growth

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

A few months ago, I received an email from a Term Sheet reader that asked a valid question no one in the press was asking: Where has WeWork’s other co-founder Miguel McKelvey been in this mess? “Every story on WeWork is talking about Adam Neumann, but no mention of his co-founder,” the email read. “Why didn’t he speak out more? Or if he did – what is his side of story?”

I decided to try and answer those questions, and it turned into a full-fledged story. I listened to old podcasts, dug into interviews, and spoke with several company executives as well as McKelvey himself.

What I found was that McKelvey was a well-liked and well-respected figure who enjoyed a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence for years. He was helping open new WeWork locations, design the look and feel of the workspaces, and serve as a sounding board for employees inside the company. That all ended once his company spiraled into chaos when its CEO Adam Neumann was ousted and its anticipated IPO scrapped.

McKelvey spoke with me in his first public interview since the company’s period of turbulence last year. “Growth was one of our biggest focuses in the past, and I don’t think we were as focused as we should’ve been on making our product as great as it can be,” McKelvey said. “A big benefit to slowing down a little bit is that we’re going to focus on [the product] more.”

For a company whose IPO prospectus stressed fast growth, aggressive spending, and spiraling losses, this is a particularly surprising turn. Even more unusual is that McKelvey is suddenly quite involved in the company’s financial future.

“Just being honest, I was not deeply involved in the financial modeling,” McKelvey said. “There are things I didn’t understand in the past because it wasn’t my role, and I have jumped in a lot more recently.”

In October, WeWork released a 50-page presentation outlining some of the changes it planned to make in the next 90 days. One of the key principles says the company will focus on “the core WeWork desk business, prioritize disciplined growth with profitability, and right-size our operations.” It has since divested several businesses and dramatically reduced its workforce. It appears that WeWork wants to return to its roots and areas of focus that were important before 2017, the year that SoftBank agreed to pump $4.4 billion into the business.

McKelvey added that he’s worked with WeWork’s leadership team to devise a plan that he’s certain the company can succeed with, adding, “I’m here, I want to be involved, and I want to be part of our future.”

And then, he was off to his next meeting at WeWork’s headquarters. The formerly free-spirited, jet-setting cofounder who traveled the world to help expand WeWork’s reach is now stuck in conference rooms, crunching the numbers to see what’s feasible, rather than world-changing.

Read the full profile here.

…SPEAKING OF WEWORK: GV (formerly Google Ventures) has bought out the majority of WeWork’s stake in women’s workspace startup The Wing as part of its plan to divest from its non-core businesses.

WeWork first led a $32 million funding round for The Wing in 2017 and invested again in its 2018 funding round, which resulted in a 21% ownership stake in the company. 

My colleague Emma Hinchliffe reports that GV has bought out most of that stake, with the remainder going to existing investors Sequoia Capital and NEA. GV general partner Jessica Verrilli will join The Wing’s board of directors, replacing former WeWork chief legal officer Jennifer Berrent. Read more.

Polina Marinova
Twitter: @polina_marinova
Email: polina.marinova@fortune.com 


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- Levine Leichtman Capital Partners named Josh Kaufman as managing director and Luc Sandmann as associate director. 

- Crestline Investors named Frank Jordan to partner.


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