Jeff Bezos, Larry Fink, and other top US execs dodged $1.9 billion in losses by selling their own stock as the coronavirus outbreak worsened

jeff bezos

  • Top executives sold a total of $9.2 billion in their firms' stock before markets hit fresh lows on March 20, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
  • The sales made between February 1 and March 19 led corporate leaders to avoid potential losses totaling $1.9 billion, according to The Journal's analysis. Markets tanked through late February and March as coronavirus risks weighed on investors' nerves.
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accounted for roughly one-third of executives' 2020 sales. The chief executive offloaded $3.4 billion in the e-commerce giant's stock in the first week of February, leading him to dodge losses of about $317 million.
  • Financial sector giants including BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Apollo Global Management Director Marc Rowan, and Intercontinental Exchange Chief Executive Jeffrey Sprecher also dumped shares amid the market turmoil.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

US executives spanning several sectors cashed out a total of $9.2 billion in company stock before markets bottomed on coronavirus fears, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Corporate leaders avoided losses totaling $1.9 billion through sales between February 1 and March 19, according to The Journal's analysis. Much of the selling took place through pre-established trading schedules, which help executives skirt allegations of insider trading.

While executives often sell stock at the beginning of the year, sale volume was about 33% greater in recent weeks compared to comparable periods over the last two years, The Journal reported.

US stocks tanked over the six-week period as the coronavirus pandemic intensified and an oil-market struggle between Saudi Arabia and Russia fueled additional volatility. Equities slid into their first bear market in 11 years, and by March 20, the S&P 500 sat roughly 30% from its February 19 peak.

The largest seller was Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, according to The Journal, who offloaded $3.4 billion in company shares during the first week of February. The sale led Bezos to avoid losses of about $317 million had he held the stock until March 20. The sold position accounted for more than a third of executive sales this year, according to The Journal.

Read more: 'If you're going to dip a toe, start here': Citi says these 17 cash-rich stocks are perfect for traders seeking cheap opportunities in a coronavirus-hit market

Financial sector giants accounted for some of the biggest sales over the period. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink cashed out $25 million worth of shares on February 14, avoiding more than $9.3 million in potential losses. Fink offloaded $18 million worth of BlackRock shares around the same time last year, a spokesperson told The Journal.

Marc Rowan, co-founder and director of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, sold $99 million in company shares between February and early March, The Journal reported, escaping potential losses of about $40 million.

Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of New York Stock Exchange-parent Intercontinental Exchange, traded in $18 million in stock to avoid a $3 million loss.

Moody's CEO Raymond McDaniel offloaded $10 million worth of shares, roughly triple his monthly sale average in 2019, according to The Journal's analysis. The sales saved about $2.7 million in potential losses.

Lance Uggla, CEO of data provider IHS Markit, dumped $47 million of shares in the firm around February 19, dodging a $19.2 million loss had he held the shares into late March, The Journal reported.

Read more: 'Historically attractive': BlackRock's bond chief who oversees $2.3 trillion told us 5 places to buy the dip as the coronavirus crisis ravages markets

Even executives leading industries hit hardest by the virus' economic fallout sold shares before suffering greater financial hits. MGM Resorts CEO James Murren sold $22.2 million of the company's stock between February 19 and February 20, just one week after he announced he will leave the hotel chain. The trades helped Murren shake a $15.9 million loss, The Journal reported.

The coronavirus outbreak swiftly tore into travel and tourism industries through February and into March, leaving exposed industries concerned about a sudden demand shock.

The Journal combed over more than 4,000 regulatory filings from February 1 to March 19 for its executive sale analysis. Calculations for avoided losses are based on the change in stock price from the time of the sale to its level on March 20.

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