'That was last week,' Peloton CEO says, dodging questions about exercise-bike ad

"We don’t have to do much more in order to be one of the great consumer companies of the next couple of decades," John Foley said.
Peloton Interactive Inc. Debuts Initial Public Offering At Nasdaq MarketSite
John Foley, co-founder and chief executive officer of Peloton Interactive Inc., stands in front of the Nasdaq MarketSite during the company's initial public offering (IPO) in New York on Sept. 26, 2019.Michael Nagle / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Claire Atkinson

In his first public comments since Peloton drew criticism for a commercial that was seen as sexist and classist, the company's co-founder and CEO, John Foley, declined on Monday to address the company’s marketing crisis and precipitous stock drop.

"That was last week," Foley told NBC News at an investor conference. “We don’t have to do much more in order to be one of the great consumer companies of the next couple of decades."

Instead, he said the company has a bright future in the digital exercise industry, noting that the bankruptcy of stores such as Sears and Sports Authority was paving the way for a consumer shift.

“If you’re thinking hard about getting a treadmill, I don’t know where you are going to go,” he said, adding that the vast majority of his customers buy Peloton products online. “Fitness equipment has been a dopey category with dopey products. It’s an albatross we are trying to shake as we build one of the most innovative companies of our day.”

Peloton, which sells treadmills and a stationary bike for $2,245 and monthly class membership fee for $39, saw as much as $1.6 billion wiped off its valuation last week after the holiday commercial went viral. The ad features a slender woman video-documenting her year with a Peloton bike gifted by her husband. Twitter users dragged the ad, calling it "creepy," "disturbing," and "cringeworthy."

The ad fallout came amid news that Peloton was preparing to cut its digital-only subscription price, a move that some investors viewed as further signs that the company is prioritizing growth over profitability.

After a lackluster initial public offering in September, the company has had only modest success and is not yet profitable. Shares debuted at $29, which gave the company a valuation of $8.1 billion.

“The stock going backwards is a bit of a head-scratcher, I’ve got to be totally honest with you,” Foley told CNBC at the time.

Buzz about the Peloton ad took a new twist Friday after the actress in the commercial, Monica Ruiz, appeared in a spot for Aviation Gin, part owned by actor Ryan Reynolds. In the ad, the actress drinks cocktails with her friends, who tell her she is now "safe."

Peloton shares were up almost five percent Monday.