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Peloton Co-Founder John Foley Faced Repeated Margin Calls From Goldman Sachs as Stock Slumped


John Foley,

the co-founder and former chief executive of

Peloton Interactive Inc.,

PTON -3.41%

faced repeated margin calls on money he borrowed against his Peloton holdings before he left the fitness company’s board last month, according to people familiar with the situation.

As Peloton’s shares slumped over the past year,

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

GS -2.11%

asked Mr. Foley several times to provide fresh funds or additional collateral for personal loans the bank had extended to him, the people said. The company’s share price has fallen nearly 95% from its $160 peak in December 2020.

Resigning from the board gave Mr. Foley flexibility to sell or pledge more Peloton shares, though he said the margin calls weren’t the reason he left the company.

“I didn’t resign from the board because I was underwater,” he said. “To the extent that I took on debt through Goldman, it was because I am bullish on Peloton and still am. It was and is a great company.”

The former chairman and CEO had pledged as collateral about 3.5 million Peloton shares as of the end of September 2021, or about 20% of his stake at the time, securities filings show. The pledged shares were worth more than $300 million a year ago. At current prices, they are worth roughly $30 million.

Peloton has cut thousands of jobs this year to stem its losses.


John Smith/VIEWpress/Getty Images

Mr. Foley was able to secure private financing and avoid stock sales by Goldman, the people said. He declined to say on Monday how much of his current stake had been pledged or how much he had borrowed against his holdings.

His seat on the board limited his ability to raise additional funds because most public companies prohibit directors and executives from selling their shares during certain trading periods. In addition, Peloton’s policy limits pledges for margin loans by directors or executives to 40% of the value of an individual’s shares or vested options.

Mr. Foley’s decision to leave the board on Sept. 12 followed a tumultuous several months at the company he co-founded a decade ago, as well as a sharp decline in his personal wealth as Peloton’s sagging fortunes diminished the value of his holdings. His stake in the company, worth $1.5 billion a year ago, is currently worth less than $100 million.

“Everyone can see I had a rocky year,” Mr. Foley said. “This was not a fun personal balance-sheet reset.”

Barry McCarthy, a Silicon Valley veteran, became Peloton’s CEO in February.


Angela Owens/The Wall Street Journal

In February, Mr. Foley stepped down as Peloton’s CEO and was succeeded by

Barry McCarthy,

a former

Netflix Inc.

and Spotify Technology SA executive. Mr. Foley kept his position as Peloton’s executive chairman and continued to hold a controlling stake in the company through Class B shares with 20 votes apiece.

A few weeks later, Mr. Foley reported selling $50 million worth of Peloton shares in a private transaction. At the time, Peloton said the sale was part of the executive’s personal financial planning. The sale left him and his wife,

Jill Foley,

a former Peloton executive, with 6.6 million shares and options on another 8.4 million, according to securities filings, which combined are currently worth less than $100 million. He hasn’t reported any stock or option sales since March. Business Insider reported in March that Mr. Foley was in discussions with Goldman about restructuring his personal loans.

Peloton’s business deteriorated throughout the spring and summer, with the company in August reporting a $1.2 billion loss and the first ever quarter in which its subscriber numbers failed to grow. The company has cut thousands of jobs this year to stem its losses, including a round of layoffs unveiled last week.

Mr. Foley’s 10-year tenure as CEO was marked by rapid growth and sometimes lavish spending. He took heat from Peloton employees last December for hosting a black-tie holiday party that included some of the company’s celebrity instructors weeks after implementing a hiring freeze. Pictures circulated on Instagram of gown-clad instructors dancing at New York’s luxury Plaza Hotel. Mr. Foley acknowledged on social media that the event caused “frustration and angst” among employees.

Peloton has been on a wild ride, announcing its CEO was stepping down and thousands of jobs would be cut, despite seeing a surge in sales early in the pandemic. Here’s why Peloton became a viral success, and why it’s spinning out now. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds

That same month, Mr. Foley paid $55 million to purchase an oceanfront mansion in East Hampton, N.Y., according to real-estate records and people familiar with the transaction. He and Ms. Foley in September put their Manhattan penthouse up for sale. The property, last priced at $6.5 million, is in contract to be sold, according to listings website StreetEasy.

Margin loans, or borrowing against portfolios of stocks and bonds, come with the risk that a broker can call for additional cash or collateral to meet the minimum equity required if a security’s price drops too low. Sharp drops in stock prices during the 2000 dot-com burst and the 2008 financial crisis generated margin calls for executives at well-known companies.

John Foley paid $55 million to purchase this oceanfront mansion in East Hampton, N.Y.



Peloton requires directors, executives and employees to get approval for pledging their shares as collateral for margin loans. Other Peloton executives also have pledged some of their Class B holdings, and in the annual report Peloton filed last month, the company warned that investors could be harmed if its stock fell and executives were forced to sell shares.

Goldman has worked closely with Peloton, including when Mr. Foley was the CEO. The investment bank was one of the lead underwriters of the company’s initial public offering in 2019. Goldman bankers also co-led a $1 billion stock offering in November 2021.

Investors initially soured on Peloton—its shares fell 11% the day they made their debut at $29. The stock surged in 2020 during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, giving the company a peak market value of $50 billion and making Mr. Foley a billionaire on paper. The shares closed down 3.4% Tuesday at $8.78.

and Katherine Clarke contributed to this article.

Write to Sharon Terlep at [email protected] and Suzanne Vranica at [email protected]

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