Can a company like Peloton survive a CEO’s sudden departure?

With news that CEO Jim Jannard is leaving and taking his shares with him, the nearly 500-person company Peloton, which makes video-linked stationary bikes that broadcast workouts to online classes, is expected to be in for a rough week. But it is not yet clear what plan the company will have to fill the void that Jannard’s departure creates, as most publicly-traded companies have survived for years without a CEO. Jannard left the bike-maker “to pursue other personal interests,” the company said.

The company has taken itself public in the last couple of years, and its market value of more than $1 billion is an eye-catching figure given the company’s meager revenue, estimated at $63 million in 2017. A total of six board members will now need to be replaced.

Other recent public companies have also been far from a mess, not just because of lack of liquidity (after all, at a listed price of almost half of a billion dollars, the companies are worth less than the stock certificate that lands in your hand) but because their chief executives have been able to deal successfully with the inevitable challenges that will come up.

Zoom, a Los Angeles-based company that builds robot toys for kids, announced last year that it has been raising money through a new type of financing known as a Series B. The company had held only $35 million in available capital until it began soliciting a bond issue of $150 million. According to its most recent financial statements, the new money will take Zoom’s base capital amount to $300 million. The Series B round was ultimately completed in February, at a total of $134 million, and Zoom has the advantage of being able to tap out more money through other means.

Other companies, too, have been able to in some ways smooth their way through the volatility that lies ahead in the stock market. Glassdoor, the job-information website, created its NASDAQ-Staged IPO Market last year, and allows companies that launch IPOs of late-stage companies (those that have filed paperwork for a public offering) to use the symbols originally used for NASDAQ-listed companies. The intent is that these companies can use those symbols through when they eventually raise money from public investors.

“This gives them a stronger footing to raise capital,” said Scott Sweet, the CEO of IPO Boutique, a marketing consultancy. Companies that complete an IPO on the Nasdaq as NASDAQ-listed firms are allowed to use their original ticker symbols for two years. “So over time, they use the Nasdaq ticker symbol in their statements and they come out with a more simple document,” Mr. Sweet said. He pointed out that in most cases the bottom-line financials that an entrepreneur discusses in an IPO document are released on the day of the IPO, as it reflects their company’s financials through that day. “You can’t get anything above that,” he said. “So this helps, as they can use [their original ticker symbols] to step on stage and talk about their numbers in front of their shareholders.”

The challenge is to keep investors from getting nervous when an IPO goes horribly awry. After all, there’s only so much you can do to attract investors by doing something in which you are intimately invested. “When the IPO is a positive one, it makes it easier for the management to stand in front of the analyst community and discuss the numbers and give a talk about the investment strategy,” said Scott Sweet. “When it’s a negative IPO, it makes it harder. That creates a negative sentiment in the market. So making sure they’re speaking the market language as well as the founder language is imperative.”

The emotional pitch of Peloton’s chief executives is crucial too, so the company might need to find a new strong leader. A company like Zoom, whose central business is selling robotic toys to kids and adult consumers alike, has no question what its position is. But some of the newly public companies that already have chief executives, as well as new companies with CEOs planning to remain, will be even more hard-pressed to keep their stocks from dropping in value over the coming months.


Eileen Fisher, another girl who thought about running away, goes public

Moneyball: Executives are trying to play baseball on the stock market

Leave a Comment