A 20-year-old college student made an estimated $110 million by selling a stake in struggling retailer Bed Bath & Beyond after its share price soared during a month of frantic trading reminiscent of last year’s meme stock boom.
Jake Freeman, an applied mathematics and economics major at the University of Southern California, acquired nearly 5 million shares of Bed Bath & Beyond in July, according to regulatory filings, after dismal profits and the ouster of its CEO sent the stock price plummeting.
Freeman bought his stake for less than $5.50 a share. In Tuesday, Bed Bath & Beyond jumped to more than $27 a share. As the stock soared, Freeman sold more than $130 million worth of stock from his TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers accounts.
Freeman’s sale was timely. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond plunged more than 20 percent Thursday after investor and meme champion Ryan Cohen announced on Wednesday evening that he intends to sell his entire stake of almost 12 percent in the company.
“I certainly didn’t expect such a fierce rally up,” Freeman said in an interview Wednesday. “I thought it would be more than six months of playing. . . I was really shocked that it went up so fast.
After selling the stock, Freeman went to dinner with his parents in the New York suburbs where they live and flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday to return to campus, he said.
Freeman’s initial stake was worth about $25 million, which he said was raised mostly from friends and family. He invested for years with his uncle, Dr. Scott Freeman, a former pharmaceutical executive. The two recently built an active stake in a publicly traded pharmaceutical company called Mind Medicine.
Freeman also said he interned for years at a New Jersey hedge fund, Volaris Capital. Just before his 17th birthday, Freeman and his founder Vivek Kapoor, a former Credit Suisse executive, published a paper titled “Irreducible Risks of Hedging Bond Default Swaps.”
Freeman amassed his more than 6 percent position in Bed Bath & Beyond through Freeman Capital Management, a fund registered in the cowboy town of Sheridan, Wyoming, according to the filings.
After revealing his position in July, Freeman sent an uncompromising letter message to the retailer’s board. The company, he said, was “facing an existential crisis for its survival.” It needed to “reduce the rate of cash burn, dramatically improve its capital structure and raise cash,” he added.
Shares of the New Jersey-based chain — known for operating cavernous stores filled with vacuum cleaners, towels and kitchen gadgets — have risen fivefold in the past month even after a dismal June 29 earnings report.
The company reported that sales fell 25% in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2021, while its net loss widened to $358 million from $51 million. Its cash position is down to $107 million from $1 billion at the start of the year.
Bed Bath & Beyond is one of a handful of memes that have gone viral in early 2021, but it has gotten less attention than GameStop, the video game retailer chaired by Cohen, and AMC, the movie theater chain.
The rise in the share price was driven by interest from retail investors attracted by little free trading in the stock and a significant number of short sellers betting that the share price will fall.
These two features tend to attract interest from retail investors visiting the Reddit forums. This means they can try to create a “short squeeze” by pushing the stock price up and forcing professional investors to unwind their bearish positions, which only pushes the stock down even further.
It was a separate revelation on Monday by Cohen, who also co-founded pet food retailer Chewy, that sent shares reeling on Tuesday. He disclosed that he had bought a large number of call options on Bed Bath & Beyond, derivatives that can yield windfall profits if a stock’s value rises.
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.