Peloton hires former Barnes & Noble CEO to take home-cycling platform global

Ask Peloton founder and CEO John Foley what his vision is for his disruptive fitness company, and he uses lofty terms like, "the promised land."

There is no vision too wide, no possibility too grand to Foley, who in barely five years has taken one product — a stationary bicycle with an interactive computer screen that streams live classes from one Manhattan studio — and turned it into a $200 million company at the nexus of fitness, technology and media.

In order to expand Peloton's brand and products, Foley is installing the company's first president: William Lynch, the former Barnes & Noble CEO who presided over the launch of the Nook.

"We're just getting started," Foley said. "We're bringing other products to market, we're innovating, so I want to be pretty sure-footed, and bringing on William absolutely strengthens our management team and helps us take execution risk off the table."

Foley and Lynch tend to focus on one word a lot: growth. Peloton tripled its revenue from 2015 to 2016, Lynch said. While the company has already swelled to about 400 employees, Foley said he expects that figure to jump tenfold in four or five years.

Lynch will help lead that expansion, including opening studios in locations such as Shanghai and Paris in coming years. Competition in the live-streaming fitness category is heating up, making innovation and technology key to success.

"There is a lot going on at the company. It doesn't need a white knight," Lynch said. While he declined to lay out Peloton's specific plans for growing the company, he said, "You can imagine other fitness categories and other fitness experiences that could be brought to consumers using the technology and the content platform that's been built here."

Foley and Lynch met more than a decade ago at IAC/Interactive Corp., a media and internet company, and Lynch later recruited Foley to head up Barnes & Noble's online division. The two had a good working relationship, as well as a common experience in disrupting a well-known product with new technology.

"He knows these weird companies that are vertically integrated hardware/software platforms," Foley said of Lynch. "There are lots of ways he was the perfect fit for Peloton because not many people know station manufacturing, and logistics and distribution and retail and television commercials."

Peloton recently announced it would begin building commercial-grade cycles that will show up this year in hotels, offices, apartment buildings and gyms. Lynch said that was a direct response to consumer demand, and that is the strategy he intends to follow.

"If you listen to consumers and let consumers drive your growth and investment decisions, then that's a good place to start," Lynch said. "Then you need to build a team to seize those opportunities, and that's really the deliberate way we're thinking about driving growth in terms of sales and the company and employees here."

Lynch resigned from Barnes and Noble in 2013 after the company reported disappointing sales and growth for the new e-reader platform. He and Foley say that was an uphill battle from the start, as they were late to the e-party and trying to compete with an already established and popular product from Amazon. That will not be the case at Peloton.

"They created the category," said Lynch.