Summer 2019, Melanie Whelan the CEO of SoulCycle, purchased two Dior bags (if you’re wondering a book tote for herself and a backpack for Patrick Ryan-Southern – managing director of international markets) on the company credit card for $5,100. Ryan-Southern, according to former staff members was known as one of Whelan’s “favorites”.
The generous gift didn’t go unnoticed.
The staff members 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 destroyed the board’s faith in Whelan. Whelan left the company a week later.
Dior-gate symbolised larger issues looming in the company, which many sources said morphed from a highly sort-after boutique fitness brand to a profit-hungry behemoth under Equinox, which bought SoulCycle in 2011. From the outside, SoulCycle appeared to be sky-high, opening plush studios in London and Las Vegas, being imprinted in pop culture forever on “Saturday Night Live” skits, as well as designing a home bike to rival that of Peloton. But from the inside the company seemed a mess, overrun by misbehaving executives, outraged instructors, and an overbearing parent company, said SoulCycle employees. It would seem just like all the other ‘Unicorn’ startups SoulCycle faces a mass of employees who paint a picture of a toxic corporate culture exacerbated by a first-time CEO who was pushed for lightning-speed growth by Equinox. Add another one to the list…
We highly recommend reading BusinessInsiders full investigation into the companies fall.