University student makes $110mn trading meme stock favourite Bed Bath & Beyond

University student makes $110mn trading meme stock favourite Bed Bath & Beyond

A 20-year-old university student has made a roughly $110mn gain by selling a stake in struggling retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, after its stock price soared during a month of frenzied 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 5mn shares in Bed Bath & Beyond in July, according to regulatory filings, after dismal earnings and the ousting of its chief executive sent its stock price plummeting.

Freeman bought his stake at under $5.50 a share. On Tuesday, Bed Bath & Beyond surged to more than $27 a share. As the stock soared, Freeman sold more than $130mn worth of stock from his TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers accounts.

Freeman’s sale was well-timed. Shares in Bed Bath & Beyond tumbled more than 20 per cent on Thursday after the investor and meme-stock champion Ryan Cohen disclosed on Wednesday evening that he intended to sell his entire stake of almost 12 per cent in the company.

“I certainly did not expect such a vicious rally upwards,” Freeman said in an interview on Wednesday. “I thought this was going to be a six-months-plus play . . . I was really shocked that it went up so fast.”

After selling the shares, Freeman went for dinner with his parents in the suburb of New York City where they live and on Wednesday he flew to Los Angeles to return to campus, he said.

Jake Freeman: ‘I was really shocked that it went up so fast’ © Jake Freeman

Freeman’s initial stake cost about $25mn, which he said was mostly raised from friends and family. He has invested for years with his uncle, Dr Scott Freeman, a former pharmaceutical executive. The two recently built an activist stake in a publicly traded pharmaceutical company called Mind Medicine.

Freeman also said he had interned for years at a New Jersey hedge fund, Volaris Capital. Just before his 17th birthday, Freeman and its founder, Vivek Kapoor, a former Credit Suisse executive, published a paper titled “Irreducible Risks of Hedging a Bond with a Default Swap”.

Freeman amassed his more than 6 per cent position in Bed Bath & Beyond via Freeman Capital Management, a fund registered in the cowboy town of Sheridan, Wyoming, according to the filings.

Upon disclosing his position in July, Freeman sent an uncompromising message to the retailer’s board. The company, he said, was “facing an existential crisis for its survival”. It needed “to cut its cash-burn rate, drastically improve its capital structure, and raise cash”, he added.

Shares of the New Jersey-based chain — known for operating cavernous stores full of vacuums, towels and kitchen gadgets — have risen fivefold over the past month even after the grim earnings report on June 29.

It reported sales had plunged 25 per cent in the second quarter compared with the same period of 2021, while its net loss widened to $358mn from $51mn. Its cash position had dwindled to $107mn from $1bn at the start of the year.

Bed Bath & Beyond is one of a handful of meme stocks that became popular at the start of 2021 but has garnered less attention than GameStop, the video game retailer chaired by Cohen, and AMC, the cinema chain.

The increase in its share price has been driven by interest from retail investors attracted by the stock’s small free float and a significant number of short sellers betting the share price will fall.

Those two characteristics tend to draw interest from retail investors frequenting Reddit forums. It means they can try to engineer a “short squeeze” by driving the share price higher and forcing professional investors to unwind their bearish positions, which only propels the stock even higher.

It was a separate disclosure on Monday from Cohen, who is also co-founder of pet food retailer Chewy, that sent the stock on a tear on Tuesday. He disclosed he had purchased a large number of call options in Bed Bath & Beyond — derivatives that can deliver a windfall if a stock rises in value.

Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.

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