Bed Bath & Beyond’s Gustavo Arnal was overwhelmed before suicide

Bed Bath & Beyond CFO Gustavo Arnal was stressed out by working 18-hour days and was considering taking a leave in the weeks before he killed himself, a new report said.

The late executive was also upset about the fallout his mid-August $1.4 million stock sale generated because he had preplanned the sale and was still holding more than $5 million in company shares, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Arnal was 52 when he plunged to his death from his 18th story, $18,500 a month rental in Tribeca on Sept. 2 while his wife was at home. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.

The week before the Venezuelan immigrant and father of two took his own life, he had been named in a $1.2 billion “pump-and-dump” lawsuit filed against BBB and GameStop chairman Ryan Cohen and accused of artificially raising the price of the stock to cash in

Cohen raised $68.1 million in profits by unloading his massive stake on Aug. 16, the same day Arnal’s $20 limit order sale took place, according to the article. The BBB stock price lost half its value over the next three days.

Authorities at the scene after Gustavo Arnal jumped from the building.
Robert Miller

The company told The Journal it considered the lawsuit to be meritless, and an internal investigation found no evidence of fraud or collusion on Arnal’s part while revealing the late financial executive did not have any one-on-one communication with Cohen, a billionaire investor activist , according to the report.

In the months before the stock sale and lawsuit, officials and directors at the home goods chain were reportedly growing concerned about the demands Arnal was facing in the midst of the company’s financial crisis, which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. was valued at $17 billion ten years ago but was worth less than $1 billion when Arnal took the job in May of 2020.

Bed Bath & Beyond store
Bed Bath & Beyond’s value began to drastically fall in 2019 as online shopping reigned king.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cohen revealed in March he had a 10% stake in the company — which was swept up in the meme-stock craze — and called on it to restructure. A cascade of senior executives left BBB in the following months, but Arnal was one of the few that stayed, according to the report.

On Aug. 31, two days before his suicide, Arnal and other officials had announced the company secured new financing and would be closing a fifth of its 800 stores while reducing costs by 20 percent.

At the time he was clocking 18-hour days on the restructuring plan while also being bombarded with emails from individual investors and lawsuit plaintiffs, friends and coworkers told the paper.

BBB leaders had considered replacing Arnal but did not want to make a change while he was in the midst of raising money, according to the article. He was scheduled to talk with other executives about possibly “taking a break” from work after the Labor Day holiday, the report said.

Authorities at the scene after Gustavo Arnal jumped from the building.
The medical examiner ruled Arnal’s death a suicide.
Robert Miller

“I could see the stress on him,” former chief executive of Avon Products Jan Zijderveld told the paper after having a dinner with Arnal and his wife that stretched until 1 am six weeks ago in Manhattan.

Arnal reportedly told Zijderveld he was under pressure at work, but seemed upbeat and animated as he burned the midnight oil.

“He’s the sort of guy who carries the world on his shoulders,” Zijderveld said.

“It was 24/7, ‘Let’s fix this thing,'” he reportedly said. “He was full of intensity. This is not a half-measure kind of guy.”

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

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