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Why SoulCycle and Its CEO Are Suddenly Parting Ways

November 27, 2019, 9:25 AM UTC

Cult-fitness brand SoulCycle Inc. has parted ways with Chief Executive Officer Melanie Whelan as a challenging year for the cycling studio comes to a close.

Sunder Reddy, SoulCycle’s chief financial officer, will take over as interim CEO. Whelan also is leaving the board. The decision was described as mutual, and she will remain on as an adviser during the transition.

SoulCycle faced headwinds during Whelan’s tenure, including a scrapped IPO and mounting competition with Peloton Interactive Inc. In August, SoulCycle also was hit with a boycott by some customers over a fundraiser for President Donald Trump hosted by Stephen Ross, the chairman of its parent company.

Both SoulCycle and sister chain Equinox moved to distance themselves from Ross, but they couldn’t completely contain the backlash. Celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen, Billy Eichner, Amber Tamblyn and Sophia Bush tweeted they would stop going to Equinox and SoulCycle gyms.

Last year, SoulCycle put the brakes on its public-market ambitions. It first detailed plans for a U.S. IPO in 2015, but it listed at the time several factors that could negatively impact its revenue growth and profitability, including new competitors entering the indoor cycling market. This past summer, Peloton, which brings cycling into clients’ homes, went public.

SoulCycle’s workout classes, which take place in candelit rooms and are described as a “cardio party,” cost about $36 per session in New York City.

CNBC reported earlier on Whelan’s departure.

The executive, who took over as CEO at the company in 2015, confirmed on Instagram Tuesday that she had exited the company.

“After eight amazing years with SoulCycle, this week marks the end of an incredible chapter as I move on to my next adventure,” Whelan said in the post. She didn’t say where she was going next.

“The magic of SoulCycle will always be in those dark studios,” she said. “The love, the passion, the energy and the spirit of what we do is more important today than ever before. I will see you on a bike . . . soon.”

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