SoulCycle was riding high last year – here’s what insiders say pushed it to the brink of failure

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In the summer of 2019, Melanie Whelan, the CEO of SoulCycle, purchased two Dior bags — a book tote for herself and a backpack for Patrick Ryan-Southern — on the company credit card for $5,100. Ryan-Southern, the managing director of international markets, was known as one of Whelan’s “favorites,” former staffers said.

The generous gift didn’t go unnoticed.

The staffers said Whelan was repeatedly asked to produce a receipt for the purchase after they say the CEO attempted to pass the two bags off as one big gift for Ryan-Southern. Whelan denied allegations of misleading the company, and said that she was never pressured to produce a receipt. But the apparent deception unraveled the board’s faith in Whelan, the former corporate employee said.

Whelan left the company a week later.

The Dior debacle symbolized larger issues looming at the company, which many sources said morphed from a beloved boutique fitness brand to a profit-hungry mammoth under Equinox, which bought SoulCycle in 2011. From the outside, SoulCycle appeared to be on a roll, opening swanky studios in London and Las Vegas, being satirized on  “Saturday Night Live” skits, and designing a home bike to rival that of Peloton.

But to many, internally it seemed a mess, overrun by misbehaving executives, fuming instructors, and an overbearing parent company, people familiar with the inner workings of SoulCycle said. 

Business Insider spoke with more than two dozen current and former SoulCycle employees who painted a picture of a toxic corporate culture exacerbated by a first-time CEO who was pushed for lightning-speed growth by Equinox. 

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Source:: Business Insider


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