Top SoulCycle instructors – some with huge followings – say they’re being laid off with little to no pay | Big Indy News
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Top SoulCycle instructors – some with huge followings – say they’re being laid off with little to no pay



SoulCycle customers are venting their outrage on social media as the chic spinning studio quietly lays off top instructors with little to no severance — and one spinning guru claims she’s collected more than $20,000 in donations.

Katie Lutkowski, who helped open the Skokie, Ill. studio in December 2016 and was promoted to senior instructor in November, said she launched a fundraising campaign for about 19 laid-off workers after learning of the layoffs last week.

The 30-year-old trainer posted her Venmo account on her Instagram page and “it blew up” she said, noting she has racked up more than $20,000 in less than a week. “I didn’t expect it to reach this many people.”

SoulCycle instructors are “rightfully angry and sad,” Lutkowski told The Post. “Some of them are around my age and were recently promoted and now they’re losing everything.”

Jenny Casto has been a SoulCycle instructor for three years.

The chain’s star spinning instructors – many of whom moved to markets such as suburban Chicago and Tampa, Fla. to help launch its first studios in those areas – were shocked to learn on a Zoom call last week that their jobs were getting cut amid downsizing that’s closing a quarter of its stores.

On Thursday, SoulCycle told Lutkowski she would get one week’s severance after initially telling her she would get none.

The skimpy payout made Lutkowski feel “like they don’t care about how much time, effort, heart, and grit I put into this company,” she told The Post. “Like they don’t see, have never seen, and will never see the huge community I have built and the lives I’ve impacted.”

“Comes off like I was a new hire,” Lutkowski added. “Just sucks.”

Owned by the Equinox luxury gym, SoulCycle revealed last week it is closing 20 of its 82 studios and laying off 75 of its 1,350 employees. The company closed its studios for months when the pandemic hit and never regained its momentum when they reopened.

Some instructors and customers said they believe the number of layoffs is higher as each studio has about 10 employees — and that the company is targeting its most expensive, senior instructors with the cuts.

“These layoffs are interesting because they’re not cutting the newest (thus cheapest) instructors, they’re going for ones that cost the company more money,” wrote one Reddit user. “They also seem to be closing a lot of suburb studios.”

SoulCycle instructor Katie Lutkowski
Katie Lutkowski has been a SoulCycle instructor in the Chicago area since 2016.

In New York, however, another Reddit user said, “We have instructors with 10+ years of history getting laid off, and they were definitely filling classes pre-Covid. I know because I took their classes in jam packed studios.”

Nicholas Wagner was among those Big Apple instructors.

“Thank you for all the amazing humans who have trusted me and taken my class,” the 12-year SoulCycle veteran posted on Instagram.

In the latest cuts, SoulCycle is pulling up stakes in Tampa entirely according to a Reddit user who lamented that the veteran instructors there, Sasha Kahnamelli and Candy Jones, “relocated TO Tampa in the first place for Soul,” adding, “There are no ‘neighboring studios’ for Sasha and Candy to go to.”

SoulCycle instructor Nicholas Wagner
Nicholas Wagner was a SoulCycle instructor in NYC for the past 12 years.
SoulCycle instructor Sasha Kahnamelli at the studio
Sasha Kahnamelli was the first Tampa, Fla. SoulCycle instructor.

“What the hell is wrong with Soul! This leaves such a sour taste in my mouth,” one Reddit user posted last week. “Wtf — no more soul in soul cycle,” wrote another.

Jenny Casto, an instructor with the company for three years, relocated from a Denver studio to reopen a Chicago location last year after it had been closed during the pandemic.

“I felt like there was a breach of trust. It didn’t feel like the SoulCycle that I fell in love with,” Casto told The Post, adding that she was not given a severance package.

“i’m beyond upset about jenny…,” one Reddit user wrote last week of Casto. “She sooo did not deserve this.”

Another instructor who has worked for the company for eight years, but did not want to be identified, said he was not offered a severance package, just a payout for his remaining personal days, he told The Post.

“The majority of people are devastated, instructors and riders alike,” the instructor said.

The chain will continue to pay its laid off employees’ health benefits through September, a spokesperson for the company said in a statement adding that the company is offering severance packages to some of its employees.

“SoulCycle’s severance package is based on various factors and many impacted employees are eligible to receive severance,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

A SoulCycle class.
Instructors say SoulCycle tried to expand too quickly, which led to its financial struggles.

Lutkowski blames the closures on SoulCycle’s rapid expansion. “We saw the expansion that seemed too much too soon,” she said. “They were trying to get it everywhere and we were spread too thin. They wanted to make quick money and have quantity over quality.”

In 2018, the company yanked a planned IPO that would have raised $100 million and helped the company to pay off its debt. At the time it had 38 studios in seven cities and was looking to open 250 studios, according to the IPO documents.

In what some viewed as a desperate move, this month, SoulCycle offered free classes to anyone who gave up their Peloton bikes in a controversial campaign called “F–k it, Let’s ride together.”

SoulCycle instructors Sasha Kahnameli and Candy Jones
Some instructors, including Kahnamelli and Candy Jones of Tampa, won’t have nearby studios to turn to.

When news of the closures broke last week, SoulCycle said  “As riders continue to return to in-studio classes, there have been many shifts as a result of the pandemic,” a spokesperson told the Post in a statement.  “Some of these shifts have been based on geography and therefore we are naturally reevaluating our portfolio of studios to assess whether there is an opportunity to right-size in certain markets. This will allow us to continue to provide riders with the SoulCycle experience they know and love.”

Some customers blame SoulCycle’s woes on a decline in the quality of instructors while others say they learned to exercise in the comfort of their homes and don’t see the need to fork out big bucks for classes anymore.

“I can’t justify paying $34 a class when I do not like/connect with any of the instructors in my market (DC). We’ve lost all of the good ones who used to consistently sell out classes and create the Soul experience,” said a Reddit user last week. 

Some of the studios that are closing have struggled to reach their pre-pandemic levels, Lutkowski said, including her own. 

“We were supposed to hit numbers that weren’t possible,” she told The Post. “But we were coming back, just not as fast as the company would have liked.”

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Sister Patricia Daly, 66, Dies; Took On Corporate Giants on Social Justice



For years, Sister Pat and other environmentalists had urged ExxonMobil to take significant steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations and products. In 2007, she proposed a resolution that called on that energy giant to set a firm date to report on its progress.

“We’re the most profitable company in the history of the planet,” she told Rex Tillerson, then the company’s chief executive (and later secretary of state in the Trump administration), at the company’s annual meeting, “but what will be our long-term health when we are really faced with the regulatory and other challenges around global warming?”

She added: “We are now, this company and every single one of us, challenged by one of the most profound moral concerns. And we have the wherewithal to respond to that.”

The proposal won 31 percent of the ballots, or about 1.4 billion shares, the largest tally for an ExxonMobil climate-change resolution. If not an outright victory, it was a page in a decades-long narrative that led ExxonMobil to put a climate scientist on its board in 2017. Three executives who recognized the urgency to address climate change joined the company’s board in 2021, nominated by a tiny activist hedge fund, Engine No. 1.

“The arc of her work led us to those victories by working from the inside and the outside,” John Passacantando, the founder of Ozone Action, an anti-global warming group, and a former executive director of Greenpeace, said in a phone interview.

In 1999, Vanity Fair named her to its Hall of Fame, applauding her as one who “translates belief into commitment and never backs down from a fight.”

Mary Beth Gallagher, who replaced Sister Pat as executive director of the Tri-State Coalition in 2017, said Sister Pat had not become frustrated when her resolutions were routinely voted down.

“She lived in hope,” Ms. Gallagher said. “We never talked about winning or losing. It was about raising consciousness and educating. If we’re not asking these questions, who will?”

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Families can make a tax-free rollover from 529 plans to Roth individual retirement accounts starting in 2024



Maskot | Maskot | Getty Images

Americans who save for college in 529 plans will soon have a way to rescue unused funds while keeping their tax benefits intact.

A $1.7 trillion government funding package has a provision that lets savers roll money from 529 plans to Roth individual retirement accounts free of income tax or tax penalties.

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The House passed the measure Friday and the Senate did so Thursday. The bill heads to President Biden, who’s expected to sign it into law.

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The rollover measure — which takes effect in 2024 — has some limitations. Among the largest: There’s a $35,000 lifetime cap on transfers.

“It’s a good provision for people who have [529 accounts] and the money hasn’t been used,” said Ed Slott, a certified public accountant and IRA expert based in Rockville Centre, New York.

That might happen if a beneficiary — such as a child or grandchild — doesn’t attend a college, university, vocational or private K-12 school, or other qualifying institution, for example. Or, a student may receive scholarships that mean some 529 funds are left over.

Millions of 529 accounts hold billions in savings

There were nearly 15 million 529 accounts at the end of last year, holding a total $480 billion, according to the Investment Company Institute. That’s an average of about $30,600 per account.

529 plans carry tax advantages for college savers. Namely, investment earnings on account contributions grow tax-free and aren’t taxable if used for qualifying education expenses like tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Retirement plan changes in the omnibus spending bill

However, that investment growth is generally subject to income tax and a 10% tax penalty if used for an ineligible expense.

This is where rollovers to a Roth IRA can benefit savers with stranded 529 money. A transfer would skirt income tax and penalties; investments would keep growing tax-free in a Roth account, and future retirement withdrawals would also be tax-free.  

Some think it’s a handout for the rich

However, some critics think the rollover policy largely amounts to a tax handout to wealthier families.

“You’re giving savings incentives to those who can save and leaving behind those who cannot save,” said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

A 2012 analysis conducted by the Government Accountability Office found the typical American with a 529 account had “much more wealth” than someone without: $413,500 in total wealth for the median person, about 25 times the amount of a non-accountholder.

You’re giving savings incentives to those who can save and leaving behind those who cannot save.

Steve Rosenthal

senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

Further, the typical owner had a roughly $142,000 annual income versus $45,000 for other families, the GAO report said. Almost half, 47%, had incomes over $150,000.

The new 529-to-Roth IRA transfer provision doesn’t carry income limits.

Limitations on 529-to-IRA transfers

While the new tax break primarily benefits wealthier families, there are “pretty significant” limitations on the rollovers that reduce the financial benefit, Jeffrey Levine, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant based in St. Louis, said in a tweet.

The restrictions include:

  • A $35,000 lifetime cap on transfers.
  • Rollovers are subject to the annual Roth IRA contribution limit. (The limit is $6,500 in 2023.)
  • The rollover can only be made to the beneficiary’s Roth IRA — not that of the account owner. (In other words, a 529 owned by a parent with the child as beneficiary would need to be rolled into the child’s IRA, not the parent’s.)
  • The 529 account must have been open for at least 15 years. (It seems changing account beneficiaries may restart that 15-year clock, Levine said.)
  • Accountholders can’t roll over contributions, or earnings on those contributions, made in the last five years.

In a summary document, the Senate Finance Committee said current 529 tax rules have “led to hesitating, delaying, or declining to fund 529s to levels needed to pay for the rising costs of education.”

“Families who sacrifice and save in 529 accounts should not be punished with tax and penalty years later if the beneficiary has found an alternative way to pay for their education,” it said.

Are 529 plans already flexible enough?

Some education savings experts think 529 accounts have adequate flexibility so as not to deter families from using them.

For example, owners with leftover account funds can change beneficiaries to another qualifying family member — thereby helping avoid a tax penalty for non-qualified withdrawals. Aside from a kid or grandkid, that family member might be you; a spouse; a son, daughter, brother, sister, father or mother-in-law; sibling or step-sibling; first cousin or their spouse; a niece, nephew or their spouse; or aunt and uncle, among others.

Owners can also keep funds in an account for a beneficiary’s graduate schooling or the education of a future grandchild, according to Funds can also be used to make up to $10,000 of student loan payments.

The tax penalty may also not be quite as bad as some think, according to education expert Mark Kantrowitz. For example, taxes are assessed at the beneficiary’s income-tax rate, which is generally lower than the parent’s tax rate by at least 10 percentage points.

In that case, the parent “is no worse off than they would have been had they saved in a taxable account,” depending on their tax rates on long-term capital gains, he said.

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Goldman grumbling grows for banking giant to sack CEO David Solomon



The knives are out for Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, and this time the people brandishing them aren’t the usual suspects — his junior staffers annoyed that they have to work late or come into the office several times a week.

Solomon’s problems are more serious and existential, I am told, and how he handles what can best be described as a revolt in some quarters of Goldman’s middle and upper management ranks could determine how much longer he stays in his job.

Solomon, 60, took the job in 2018 and was always somewhat of an odd choice to run the white-shoe investment bank that usually cultivated its leaders from within. He cut his teeth at a decidedly un-Goldman-like venue: the scrappy investment bank Bear Stearns (ultimately one of the causalities of the 2008 financial crisis).

He joined Goldman in 1999, as a partner, no less, because his deal-making chops allowed him to skip layers of management.

In other words, Solomon is an outsider at a firm with a wickedly insular culture. He has a quirky side gig as a DJ in the summer Hamptons party circuit. He’s also not one for small talk, and doesn’t consult with a lot of people before handing down his edicts. 

“He doesn’t breed a lot of love,” said one former Goldman executive who knows Solomon well.

Lots of people at Goldman don’t like him, and they’re letting their views be heard both internally and with pals at rival firms.

Solomon as a DJ
Solomon is an outsider at a firm with a wickedly insular culture.
David Solomon/Instagram

For the record: I’ve met Solomon and like him for his no-BS style. And until pretty recently, the numbers show him doing a great job. Goldman was running on all cylinders in deals and trading. Even as the market corrects, shares are up about 60% since Solomon took over as CEO in 2018 compared to around a 44% rise in the S&P during that time.

Goldman is still the top M&A shop, even widening its market share over rivals in that important business line. Solomon was the first among his fellow CEOs to see the downturn and enact significant layoffs to cut costs.

Still, the grumbling about Solomon is spreading to the managing director and partner class. High-priced Wall Street talent don’t call all the shots at any firm, of course. But Goldman’s MDs and partners have historically been a powerful force when the board decides the fate of current management, which makes Solomon’s hold on his job increasingly precarious as more and more of them defect from his camp.

David Solomon as a DJ
Solomon was the first among his fellow CEOs to see the downturn and enact significant layoffs to cut costs.
David Solomon/Instagram

Here’s how they’re building a case against him: Goldman’s longtime archrival investment bank Morgan Stanley now easily dwarfs Goldman in market value, $144 billion to $116 billion, continuing a trend that predates Solomon. That comes amid a slowdown in banking deals, Goldman’s bread-and-butter business, and Solomon’s home turf.

Morgan’s CEO James Gorman deftly expanded the firm’s wealth management operations, which provide steady revenues. Solomon’s effort to diversify was an overindulgence in something called Marcus, a digital retail bank launched by his predecessor Lloyd Bankfein that Solomon made his baby. So far, it’s been a disaster, so much so that Solomon has been forced to scale back, possibly on the way to winding it down.

Goldman, meanwhile, has missed targets in its recent earnings announcements, and more downward surprises could be in store as markets continue to wobble. Bonuses are down, in some places cut in half, albeit from the nosebleed levels of 2021.

Goldman Sachs headquarters
The grumbling about Solomon is spreading to the managing director and partner class.
AFP via Getty Images

Traders did well in 2022 because Goldman’s are particularly adept in profiting off turbulence, but part of their pool is being diverted to bankers to keep them in-house until the deal slowdown ends.

Since Solomon is a banker, he’s also being accused of favoritism, which in truth is a pretty lame charge, since bankers often subsidize trader bonuses when the markets aren’t profitable. Still, the Goldman trading department is powerful and can spark management change, as it has done in the past.

There’s also a question about Solomon’s allegiance to Goldman’s stand-alone culture. In its 153-year existence, Goldman has operated on the assumption that it would be the acquirer in any major strategic acquisition. Solomon’s experience at Bear, then one of the most transactional places on Wall Street, means he could be looking for a deal and not one that keeps Goldman in charge.

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman deftly expanded the firm’s wealth management operations, which provide steady revenues.
Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman deftly expanded the firm’s wealth management operations, which provide steady revenues.
AFP via Getty Images

At a time when most Goldman insiders believe he needs to do a “transformational deal,” i.e., something big that allows it to better compete against Morgan Stanley and super banks like JP Morgan, there is speculation that Solomon might allow Goldman to be swallowed whole by, say, a big asset manager or bank if the price was right.

As best I can tell, this grumbling, though real, doesn’t immediately threaten Solomon’s job. Then again, there is something to be said for keeping your producers happy.

Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric, was a notorious screamer and demanding beyond belief. Yet Welch knew how to nurture his people.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch
Jack Welch was a notorious screamer and demanding beyond belief. Yet Welch knew how to nurture his people.
Getty Images

“Jack could chew your ass, then put his arm around you and make you feel great,” one of his longtime executives, Bob Nardelli, once told me.

It’s why so many other talented execs chose to stay around under Welch, abuse and all, and left when his successor took over, watching GE implode from the outside.

Maybe it’s a good time for Solomon to take a page from Welch and start hugging it out.

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