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Late last year, Miguel McKelvey, the lesser known of WeWork’s two co-founders, listed his Greenwich Village townhouse for $21 million.I thought it’d be fun and instructive to tour McKelvey’s digs just a few blocks north of NYU. The residence is a 6,000 square foot modernist house with a plunge pool and an open glass atrium overlooking a garden and has a notorious past: It was the site of an accidental bombing by the Weather Underground. In 1970, members of the radical leftist group destroyed the home building bombs out of dynamite and nails in the basement. What, exactly, can a person buy with millions from an embattled startup whose valuation was artificially pumped up before a disastrous IPO attempt?
A friend and I, genuinely curious as to whether normal people could view the house, emailed McKelvey’s real estate agent at Douglas Elliman, to set up a viewing.It had been a terrible year for WeWork. The coworking startup plummeted in value and received a $10 billion bailout, after the spectacular meltdown of its IPO. Meanwhile, mass layoffs were announced and McKelvey’s partner and co-founder Adam Neumann received a $1.7 billion golden parachute.Touring McKelvey’s home was an opportunity to view the wealth behind the smoke and mirrors of the WeWork fiasco up close. (McKelvey’s net worth is estimated at $900 million.)A couple of pieces of art featured on the real estate listing proclaim in bold text, "We gave a party for the gods and the gods all came” and “I want to cum inside your heart,” and had caused a stir on social media. (The real estate agency would not confirm with Business Insider whether they belonged to McKelvey.)
But, it seems that unless you’re ultra-rich and can prove it, you can’t see the house. Despite advertising an open house posting online, McKelvey’s real estate agent wrote to us that the so-called “open house” was “by appointment” only.“The sellers have also asked that I receive a financial statement and proof of funds (in the realm of the purchase price) before showing the home,” the agent wrote. “I have attached the financial statement and proof of funds can come in the form of a snapshot or snap shots of accounts.” We are not millionaires and we weren't willing to lie or forge a financial statement in order to see the house. Our hopes were dashed.Two real estate agents I know, one in Silicon Valley and the other in New York City, told me that while most agents will open their doors to any person with an email address— those representing clients with extremely expensive homes often ask for financial information and Google potential buyers before showing the homes to avoid wasting their time or potentially exposing clients to security concerns. Perhaps, the agent discovered that I’m a reporter at an outlet that is critical of WeWork, and got suspicious.Either way, I learned that open houses often aren't that at all. To buy the home of someone who is rich and famous, you have to be rich. And you have to be rich just to look at it.