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Mystery: Who is Henry Hawksberry, ghost author of ‘Is WeWork a Fraud?’

(BUSINESS NEWS) WeWork has been a hot mess lately, and the public got involved after a list of egregious infractions was published on Medium, but the author is a ghost and no one has noticed. Who the hell is Henry Hawksberry!?

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Who exactly is Henry Hawksberry? Are you ready for a good conspiracy theory? Oh good, me too – put on your tinfoil hat and buckle up, because it’s about that time!

Yesterday, in our real estate section, I broke down how the wild WeWork IPO withdrawal could impact the residential real estate industry. Part of that breakdown was referencing the WeWork drama involving made-up accounting practices, tax ducking, wild spending from deep pockets, shady business dealings, and a fleecing of historic proportions.

By now, we all know a lot of what happened, thanks to Henry Hawksberry who penned the viral “Is WeWork a Fraud?” scathing blog post illustrating point-by-point the “ponzi scheme.”

But something bugged me.

Who IS Henry Hawksberry? I started digging and no one has picked up on the fact that it’s a ghost. A shadow. A phantom. A specter. Yet this one blog post has been republished dozens of times, and referenced thousands of times.

Let’s dig into these breadcrumbs:

1. Henry Hawksberry’s original Medium post (which is what everyone linked to, retweeted, and republished) has been deleted. By Henry Hawksberry.

2. But not just the story, the entire Medium account that posted the one blog post has been deleted. No one seems to have noticed, given that it has been republished so widely.

So, I went to the Wayback Machine, and there is only one instance of that account ever being captured – on September 20th, there was one blog post, a profile picture of someone skiing, they followed one person (which is not clickable, so that doesn’t yield any clues) and were followed by 70 (no surprise there since his post was already viral by the 20th).

3. You are prompted to set up a Medium account with a Google or Facebook account, so we dug for both looking for “Henry Hawksberry,” yielding zero results. Same with LinkedIn. And Reddit.

And, although his name is mentioned on Twitter endlessly, every single instance (yes, I read every. single. tweet.) is in reference to this one blog post. There is no account under the name “Henry Hawksberry.”

4. But Twitter is where it gets slightly interesting. There are three tweets that noticed this person is a ghost.

One British fella took issue with Herny calling WeWork out for lack of transparency, but is non-transparent, one guy posits that it’s a pen name, and an Irish fella questions his identity but immediately moves on.

The very first perked ear was from Peter Yang:

Note that this tweet has two retweets and 7 likes. In case anyone unlikes it, here is a screenshot of all Likes:

Note that one of the likes is from @ProfGalloway himself. More on that soon…

“Motorman” has a quick conversation asking who Henry is, but mainly to point out that Henry criticizes WeWork’s refusal to be transparent while ironically, Henry is doing the same. But the topic dies quickly and no one else gets involved.

Here we go – finally someone saying the very thing that I’ve been digging into. But the conversation dies and no one else on the planet ever picks it back up. Bizarre.

5. So I emailed Professor Galloway, who in the first tweet above, was referenced as the potential ghost. He liked the tweet but didn’t comment or retweet. Scott Galloway did write a blog post that same day, entitled “WeWTF, Part Deux,” referencing Henry Hawksberry as a “pen name, I think.”

Last night, I emailed his NYU Stern address: “I *have* to know – are YOU Henry Hawksberry? Is it a pen name? I saw someone ask (potentially in jest) if you were Henry, and no one responded or noticed, but you were one of the 7 ‘Likes.’ Is it you? If not, any theories?”

He responded, minutes later, “Who is Henry Hawksberry?” and nothing more.

I wrote back, “LOL okay… He penned the original “Is WeWork a Fraud?” (republished here) and you referenced him in your “WeWTF” blog post…” and he went silent.

This is still of interest, so keep this point fresh in your mind, I’ll circle back to it.

6. An entrepreneur in Zurich calls Henry out on Medium for being potential fake news, asking who Henry is, and it has 33 “claps” which are similar to “Likes” on Facebook, but zero comments. It went nowhere.

7. Oddly enough, RealClearMarkets has a blank profile page. The site is a product of RealClearPolitics, which is an actual trusted publication, so that’s a strange question mark. They have not responded to our request for comment.

8. Google has indexed 0 incidents of the name “Henry Hawksberry” aside from this one story and references to it – I reviewed every single instance of his name as indexed by Google. Dead end.

9. No comments by “Henry Hawksberry” were found anywhere at all which is usually the giveaway. Even when using a pen name, people will accidentally say something in a forum under that name years ago, but not this ghost.

10. I had hoped that perhaps I could piece together the relevance of his name – maybe it’s a nod to a famous historical figure in tech or business that would unlock this person’s true identity or goals, but I didn’t get anywhere with that either.

Hawksberry is a place in Australia, maybe a body of water in Brooklyn, but other than that, it’s a mystery.

So who is Henry Hawksberry?

Reading this, you’ll imagine that it’s Professor Galloway, and there’s a fine possibility of this, given the immediate silence.

However, my instinct is that the person who penned the blog post in question is close to WeWork, likely a former employee. Not a receptionist or event coordinator or someone at that level, but someone with real insider knowledge, likely at a Director level. Higher than that, and there would probably be too much at risk with stock options.

The author is also extremely well informed and had a firm grasp on the historical context of the timeline, and the writer’s diction level indicates they’re likely well educated.

A tech insider opined to me privately that it could be someone that has had full access to everything at WeWork, like a sysadmin who is acting like some sort of whistleblower.

That could be possible, but it seems more likely to me that it’s someone who removed their original blog post (without anyone noticing), knowing that it could potentially be used to identify them by leadership at WeWork, which would again, put them probably below VP status, and probably not currently with the company.

I’ve been obsessed with the WeWork melodrama, and I’ve had plenty of private conversations about it. But this Henry Hawksberry is the part that has really gotten under my skin. I’ve tested my gut against others that I trust, and we all agree that this is a real head scratcher.

It could be Gwyneth Paltrow for all we know (if you read the original blog post, you’d get the relevance of this jab).

Perhaps the fact that this person left no breadcrumbs IS a clue in and of itself.

Feel free to share any insights in the comments – maybe you have the key to solving this mystery??

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Joe Denker

    October 2, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    I read every word of the original Medium post. I had similar thoughts – seemed educated, well-informed, charged, etc… I’ve thought about resharing the Medium post amidst the clamor I see in LinkedIn and Twitter (I work in commercial real estate, particularly office) but never did because I didn’t feel informed enough. THIS article was INSIGHTFUL. I applaud your diligence and respect you for your efforts. I’m glad there are people like you in the world with that level of persistent curiosity! Thank you.

  2. James

    October 21, 2019 at 3:36 am

    He is definitely English. The written style would suggest it, there were no americanisms. He also references the landlord rent contribution in GBP, he refers to LONDON based and developers and architects. And he suggests that you would order a cup of tea at a WeCafe rather than a coffee.

  3. Pingback: Reality check: WeWork can make mistakes, lose billions - you can't

  4. Pingback: How you can avoid going down in flames like WeWork

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Business News

Coca Cola drops 200 brands, most you’ve never heard of

(BUSINESS NEWS) Coca Cola hopes to revitalize their drink arsenal by rolling back some “underperforming” brands (that you might not have known they were still making.)

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Woman drinking Coca Cola against plain wall

2020 has forced a lot of businesses to return to their proverbial drawing boards, and the Coca Cola Company is no exception. Last week, Coca Cola announced in a corporate blog post that they are halting the production of 200 of their beverage brands.

In the words of Cath Coetzer, the head of global marketing for Coca Cola, the restructuring will “accelerate [Coke’s] transformation into a total beverage company”.

“We’re prioritizing bets that have scale potential across beverage categories, consumer need states and drinking occasions,” Coetzer added. “Because scale is the algorithm that truly drives growth.”

That’s… a surprising amount of technical beverage jargon, Cath.

Coca Cola is already the leading manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks on the planet. It’s hard to imagine their scope becoming any more “total.” But this strategy shift comes as the consumer thirst for soda is drying up.

Soda consumption has steadily fallen over the last ten consecutive years, thanks to a swath of modern studies that link excess sugar intake with negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In light of this research, regional sales taxes on drinks with added sugar have been debated across the country, despite aggressive corporate lobbying against it. All this has meant that beverage companies have had no choice but to pivot hard.

Take Odwalla, a Coca Cola brand that touted its vitamin content and servings of produce, which was discontinued earlier this year. Despite being marketed as a health brand, Odwalla flavors contained whopping amounts of added sugar: Their popular “superfood” flavor quietly boasted 47 grams per bottle.

The brands affected by Coke’s recent soda cull also include TAB diet soda, ZICO coconut water, and Coca Cola Life, plus internationally marketed drink brands like Vegibeta of Japan and Kuat of Brazil.

Condensing their portfolio allows Coca Cola to prioritize their most profitable products and invest in more new beverage trendsetters that better fit the times, like sparkling water, coffee, or even cannabis-infused products.

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Business News

Uber and Lyft face the music as employee ruling is upheld

(BUSINESS NEWS) The battle for Uber and Lyft drivers’ status continues, and despite company protests, the official ruling has been upheld.

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Interior of Uber and Lyft rideshare looking out on palm trees

A gig economy has its pros and cons. For anyone who has ever been an independent contractor, done freelance work, or worked for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, the pros are clear – you get to work when you want, where you want and how much you want. Flexibility and gigs go hand in hand.

And the cons? Well, those are a little more complex. Without a W2 linking you directly to the company, you as an independent contractor don’t receive the same rights and perks that your 9-5 employee friends might. For example, your employer is not required to provide a healthcare option for you. You are also not entitled to earned time off or minimum wage.

So which is better?

The gig economy conundrum has made its way all the way to an appellate court in California last week. The ruling was that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees.

Back in May, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from L.A., San Diego and San Francisco brought forth a lawsuit that argues Uber and Lyft gain an unfair, unlawful competitive advantage by not classifying their workers as W2s.

Uber and Lyft responded to the suit, stating that if they were to reclassify their drivers as employees, their companies would be irreparably harmed – though the judge in last week’s ruling negated that claim, stating that neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and also that the financial burden of converting workers to employees “do[es] not rise to the level of irreparable harm.” Essentially, the judge called their BS.

Additionally, according to the judge, there is nothing that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers – and they have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees (the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit was decided in 2018). Seems fair to me!

However, there is an oppositional proposition on the ballot that muddies the waters. Proposition 22, if passed, is a measure that would keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors, meaning that those workers from Uber and Lyft would be exempt from the new state law that classifies them as W-2 employees. And you might be surprised to know how many of the app-based rideshare workers are in favor of Prop 22!

In a class-action lawsuit, Uber has been accused of encouraging drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app. It appears, unfortunately, that Uber is manipulating its workforce by wrongly hanging their jobs over their heads.

On this matter, Gig Workers Rising stated: “If Uber and Lyft are successful in passing Prop. 22 and undo the will of the people, they will inspire countless other corporations to adapt their business models and misclassify workers in order to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of their workforce.”

Ultimately, the fate of California Uber and Lyft driver’s in still in question. It’s unclear if the question we should be asking is, will Lyft drivers have proper healthcare through their jobs or will they have jobs at all. All of this is occurring at a time where millions are jobless and 158,000 individuals sought unemployment support this week due to COVID-19 layoffs.

Personally, I have little sympathy for tech-giants that rake in billions off the backs of the exploited working-class. If the CEO of Uber is an ostentatious billionaire, then his employees should have health insurance. Clear and simple.

The scariest part of the gig economy is that workers have become increasingly happy to work for a company that gives them little to no benefits. More companies are dissolving or combining positions so that they can further bypass their responsibilities to their employees. Let us not be fooled: The dispute over whether or not to make Uber and Lyft workers W2 employees does not affect the health of the companies themselves. What it will affect is how fat the bonuses will be the big guys at the top, and that’s exactly why the companies are so adverse to the ruling. They’d rather their workers suffer than lose a single dime.

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Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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