By Rachel Sandler
Airbnb’s share price has been full of ups and downs since the home rental company went public in December 2020. The company’s shares have soared in the second half of 2021, hitting a peak of $207 in November. But now they are trading about 50% lower, following the fall of many other stocks in the US market. One of Airbnb’s three billionaire co-founders has continued to sell shares on a monthly basis despite the share price slump.
As of June 15, 2021, Jope Gebbia, who heads Airbnb’s nonprofit arm, has sold 5 million shares worth $713 million. Gebbia sells 200,000 to 700,000 shares a month, parting with 8% of his stake in the company. After taxes, Forbes estimates that Gebbia collected at least $450 million. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, these transactions were part of a predetermined trading plan.
The only exception was in March of this year, when Gebbia sold 1.4 million shares for a total pre-tax cost of $215 million. It is unclear whether his trading plan was modified or a new one created. The Securities and Exchange Commission introduced stricter disclosure rules for default trading plans last December, but they have yet to be approved.
“Other than that exception, it seems to be sticking to that monthly sales strategy,” said Daniel Taylor, an accounting professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Regarding that $200 million sale, we don’t know if that was his intention when he signed the transaction plan back then or if there was a last-minute change.”
After the sales, Gebbia owns 9% and Nathan Blecharczyk 10% of Airbnb, but each controls more than 20% of the company’s voting rights, according to the company’s April filing with regulators. Forbes estimated Gebbia’s fortune at $6.5 billion and Blecharczyk’s at $6.2 billion as of June 24.
Unlike Gebbia and Blecharczyk’s moves, Airbnb’s third co-founder, CEO Brian Chesky, hasn’t sold a single share in the past year. Chesky last sold $30 million worth of stock during the initial public offering (IPO). Chesky, who owns 11 percent of Airbnb, was estimated to be worth $8.2 billion at Friday’s market close.
An Airbnb spokesperson did not respond to a Forbes request for comment on the stock sales. While it’s unclear why Gebbia and Blecharczyk are selling so much stock, both have invested in a number of startups. While maintaining his Airbnb activity, Blecharczyk is an investor in Swimply, a startup that allows users to list their swimming pools for hourly rent. According to Pitchbook, Gebbia backs Studio, which offers 30-day online classes from artists like singer Charlie Puth and acapella group Pentatonix (also backed by Quibi founder Jeffrery Katzenberg), as well as menswear brand Vollabek based in London. Gebbia may also have used some of the cash to buy a minority stake in the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs in January. A team spokesman would not comment on Gebbia’s involvement.
Neither Gebbia nor Blecharczyk have foundations for their philanthropy, although both have signed the Giving Pledge, a promise to donate most of their wealth to charity. In March, all three founders raised donations of up to $10 million to support refugees from Ukraine. In May, Gebbia said he would give every senior at his Georgia high school 22 shares of Airbnb stock during his commencement speech. He also pledged to donate $700,000 to help bolster the school’s art department and cross country team, and in June 2021 he donated $5 million to Airbnb’s nonprofit arm, Airbnb.org.
While Airbnb’s share price has been hit in recent months, its business has improved since it laid off nearly 2,000 people in May 2020. Last month, the company reported that bookings on the home-rental site have surpassed pre-pandemic levels . The company reported a net loss of $352 million for 2021 on revenue of nearly $6 billion in 2021. For the first quarter of 2022, revenue rose to $1.5 billion — a 40% jump from a ‘ quarter of 2021 – and the net loss narrowed to about $19 million, from $1.17 billion in the corresponding quarter last year.