Peloton executives and insiders sold nearly $500 million worth of their stock before the shares tanked, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company’s stock is down more than 80 percent from its highs last year, and it hit a 52-week low of $29.11 Tuesday. Yet the company’s CEO and other executives sold millions of shares at prices over $100 a share in the months leading up to the big declines.
Company executives and insiders sold $496 million worth of their shares in 2021, according to SmartInsider. Virtually all of the sales were part of 10b5-1 plans, or prescheduled selling programs. It’s unclear how many of the sales were also linked to options exercises or options-related tax sales.
The big selling started when the stock started surging past $80 a share in the fall of 2020, and gained momentum in 2021 as the stock held above $100.
The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Peloton shares soared as sales and subscribers grew during the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers flocked to the product as they looked for ways to break a sweat without a gym membership. To meet the strong demand, Peloton invested in its business, scurrying to ramp up manufacturing and expedite order fulfillment. But as Covid vaccines rolled out, the company saw demand weaken, and its stock began to sink.
John Foley, the company’s CEO and co-founder, sold $119 million worth of stock starting in November 2020, according to SmartInsider. Most of his sales were for $110 a share or higher. The sales were part of a prearranged 10b5-1 plan to “sell a limited amount of the company’s shares for personal financial management purposes,” according to a SEC filing.
Although the plan called for selling up to 2.4 million shares through October 2022, Foley notified the board that he had terminated the selling plan on Aug. 30, 2021, after selling a total of 1 million shares. No reason was given for the termination, but on Nov. 4, 2021, the company slashed its sales forecast and the shares tumbled.
The stock sales represented about 16 percent of Foley’s total stake in the company, excluding options. Including options, the sale equaled about 5 percent of his holdings, according to SmartInsider.
Many of the top Peloton executives also cashed out a portion of their holdings with well-timed sales. William Lynch, the company president, sold more than $105 million in shares last year, with $72 million sold in February at an average price of $144.95.
Hisao Kushi, co-founder and chief legal and culture officer, sold more than $90 million of his shares — most at prices above $110 a share. Other big sellers included the company’s chief product officer, Tom Cortese, who sold more than $60 million of his stock, and its chief operating officer, Mariana Garavaglia, who tallied more than $25 million in sales.
Members of the board have also cashed out their holdings, including Karen Boone, who sold more than $20 million in stock last February at prices above $140 a share, according to filings.
Peloton insiders were not alone in their selling during last year’s soaring stock market. With large stock sales from prominent executives such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, total selling reached a record $170 billion last year, up from $94 billion in 2020, according to SmartInsider. Historically, corporate executives and insiders sell during or near highs in their stock price.
“One of the most well-accepted facts from decades of research on insider trading is that corporate insiders buy near bottoms and sell near peaks,” said Daniel Taylor, an associate professor at the Wharton School.
At the moment, Peloton is flirting with new lows. The stock came very close to going below its $29 a share IPO price, after CNBC reported that the company had hired McKinsey as it reviews its cost structure, an effort that could result in job cuts and store closures. Peloton also is effectively raising product prices later this month, when it begins to charge for shipping and installation.