SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan has stepped down from her prominent role at the cult boutique fitness brand, marking the end of a challenging year for the US-born business.
In a statement to CNBC Make It, Whelan explained: “I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to have led the SoulCycle team and brand over the past nearly eight years during a transformational time for this amazing community. The future is bright for this one-of-a-kind organization and I will be cheering on its continued growth and success.”
The decision, which has been described as mutual, will see SoulCycle’s Chief Financial Officer Sunder Reddy assume the role of interim CEO while the company looks for a permanent replacement.
Whelan will stay on in an ‘advisory role’ as the company undergoes the transition, after which she will also vacate her position as a director on the company’s board.
In an email sent to company staff, Reddy commented: “I know I speak for all of us in thanking Melanie for everything she’s done for SoulCycle over these last eight years. I know we are all grateful.
Adding: “We remain focused on our continued growth and ambitious plans for expansion both physically and digitally. As always, the future of SoulCycle is bright, and we want to thank each and every one of you for your continued hard work and dedication. We are excited for what lies ahead.”
A tougher year than most for the brand, 2019 saw SoulCycle embroiled in controversy due to its billionaire Chairman’s links to US President Donald Trump.
News of a fundraiser, hosted by Stephen Ross, chairman of The Related Companies which owns Equinox Fitness and a 97% stake in SoulCycle, led to protests outside SoulCycle studios and widespread outrage across social media, as people including model and TV host Chrissy Teigen and actress Sophia Bush, declared they would be cancelling their memberships.
In an email to members following the backlash, Whelan said the cycling company had “nothing to do with the event and does not support it”.
Stating: “We’re committed to all our riders and the communities we live in. Mr Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of SoulCycle.”
However, in August, the number of purchases at SoulCycle dropped 12.8% compared to the previous month, according to data analysis firm Second Measure.
Despite its recent woes, the brand continues to expand. Its second London studio, located in Notting Hill opened this month, boosting its portfolio to more than 95 locations in the US, Canada and UK.
In addition, the company recently revealed its plans to expand into the $639 billion wellness tourism market, with the launch of Retreats by SoulCycle — a series of premium wellness retreats hosted in partnership with luxury travel company Black Tomato, the first of which will be held in 2020.
“With Retreats by SoulCycle, we’re giving our community another opportunity to devote attention to themselves and deepen their ties to one another over the span of multiple days in a beautiful setting, outside of the day-to-day hustle,” Whelan had previously revealed.
Whelan is yet to disclose her future plans, but with over a decade’s worth of experience in the fitness industry at both SoulCycle and Equinox we’ll be watching closely to see where she heads next.