SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan has resigned, months after the company was hit by a boycott for its ties to a Donald Trump fundraiser.
“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 former executive said in a Tuesday statement to CNBC. “The future is bright for this one-of-a-kind organization and I will be cheering on its continued growth and success.”
SoulCycle has long been known as an LGBTQ+ friendly company, but in August of this year, the company was met with universal condemnation after news emerged that Stephen Ross, a billionaire who was an investor in the company, hosted a fundraiser to reelect Donald Trump. Trump attended Ross’ fundraiser in person, thanking him for raising $13 million. The president called Ross “a great friend of mine.”
LGBTQ+ customers across the country threatened to cancel their memberships at the luxury spin chain, while data examined by financial analysts showed that class attendance at Soul Cycle dropped by around seven percent over the ensuing months.
The estate of Gilbert Baker, who designed the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, wrote a letter to Soul Cycle and its sister company, Equinox, asking them to no longer fly it.
Responding to widespread criticism, the companies released a statement denying that they “have anything to do” with Ross’ fundraiser and claiming that they “do not support it.” “As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians,” Soul Cycle and Equinox stated. “We are committed to all our members and the communities we live in. We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values."
The companies also pledged to make a donation to House Lives Matter, which supports the LGBTQ+ House Ballroom community. They did not specify how much the charity would receive, just that it was part of a $1 million gift that would be split among various organizations.
For his part, Ross continued to defend his support for Trump, who is responsible for at least 130 attacks on the LGBTQ+ community since taking office, according to GLAAD."I always have been an active participant in the democratic process,” he said in a statement. “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about."
Whelan tried to smooth over the damage of the boycott, meeting with employees to hear their concerns. With her out, SoulCycle Chief Financial Officer Sunder Reddy will temporarily assume leadership during a search for a replacement.