SoulCycle's new CEO explains 'what on earth she was thinking' joining an in-person, studio fitness company during a pandemic

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SoulCycle’s new CEO took the helm in December, after a tumultuous year for the company SoulCycle was forced to close studios and forgo sales during 2020. It also faced allegations of a toxic workplace. “People have asked me since I joined, ‘What on earth were you thinking?'” new CEO Evelyn Webster said in an interview with CNBC. See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SoulCycle’s new CEO, Evelyn Webster, has a big job ahead of her.

The former media exec, who joined in December, is not only tasked with bringing the business back to life – SoulCycle studios had to close during the pandemic – but also addressing reports the company fostered a toxic work culture.

Read more: SoulCycle’s top instructors had sex with clients, ‘fat-shamed’ coworkers, and used homophobic and racist language, but the company treated them like Hollywood stars anyway, insiders say

“People have asked me since I joined, ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ joining basically a boutique fitness business, and a retail business, in the midst of a pandemic?” Webster said in an interview with CNBC’s Lauren Thomas.

“What I knew, is that we wouldn’t be in the pandemic forever,” she said.

SoulCycle, along with other fitness studios and gyms, was forced to close doors during the pandemic to curb the spread of infection. Some of those businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2020 – but Webster says she’s betting on the “magic of soul” to bring back the company’s glory days of the mid-2010s.

Like many studio fitness execs, she’s hoping people will flock back to in-person fitness classes soon.

“There will always be a real need to connect with your community,” she said. “And community is SoulCycle’s superpower.”

Ironically, the idea of “community” is exactly what SoulCycle’s at-home fitness rivals, such as Peloton, have championed. Sales of Peloton’s at-home fitness equipment grew exponentially during the pandemic, prompting experts to question whether consumers who spent $2,000 on a Peloton bike would