How GameStop’s Ryan Cohen grew to become the “Meme King”.

In Reddit communities like R/Superstonk or R/BBBY Chewy are co-founders and GameStop Chairman Ryan Cohen is often hailed as a hero, remembered in face-swapping memes, or placed at the center of “tin foil hat” theories.

“He’s the deity of the meme stock community,” said Evan, a Reddit user who spoke to CNBC on the condition that we don’t use his full name for fear of online retaliation. “I worry that when they see someone talking about Ryan Cohen not being God and their conspiracy theories are wrong, they are seeing a target that must be defeated for the sake of good. And on that spectrum of delusions.” – because you have to suffer from delusions to believe these conspiracy theories – there will be people at the extreme end of those delusions.”

The conspiracy theories Evan references can be traced back to the start of the meme stock movement in 2021 and to GameStop, the original meme stock.

Brandon, a Reddit user who also asked us to use only his first name, said he invested in GameStop because “there was hype around it” and because the company was getting so much attention on Reddit.

“It was a movement,” said Brandon, who used to be a self-proclaimed “monkey” — a term Reddit users give the site’s cohesive stock traders. “It wasn’t just a bunch of people trying to get rich.”

When Cohen joined the GameStop board in January 2021 and then assumed the role of chairman in June, he became the figurehead of the movement. Cohen, who rarely speaks publicly and gets very little press, became a regular topic of discussion in these online communities, and his every move was analyzed by Reddit users looking for investment advice.

Before joining GameStop, Cohen co-founded pet food retailer Chewy and then became an activist investor.

Cohen “came across as siding with retail investors,” said Arfan, a Reddit user who was an investor in GameStop at the time.

When Cohen tweets, discussions erupt on Reddit, with users coming up with theories about when there will be price moves in their favorite stock holdings.

GameStop Chairman Ryan Cohen.

Source: CNBC

Sue Guan, an assistant professor of law at Santa Clara University Law School, says Cohen’s tweets for retail investors fall into the category of “non-traditional forms of information to inform their investment decisions.”

“Actually, he was posting all kinds of vague nonsense, and all these people thought he was talking to them in code,” says Brandon.

GameStop shares are up 1,625% in January 2021, including a 400% surge in a week. Traders on Reddit banded together to push the stock higher and pressure short sellers who had bet the stock would fall.

Larry Cheng, a GameStop board member and a former Chewy investor, said he knows people look for hidden messages in Cohen’s tweets and also in his tweets.

“I think we wish people wouldn’t question her,” Cheng said. “We’d prefer people to just take the tweets at face value and not give them any ulterior motives.”

A source close to Cohen said he avoids promoting his holdings or giving investment advice and “just being himself on Twitter.”

The top two stocks that Reddit users associate with Cohen are GameStop and Bed Bath & Beyond, in which he briefly held a large stake in 2022. The company has since filed for bankruptcy. Still, Reddit communities like R/BBBY are hoping for Cohen’s return, and community members have theories as to when and how the company’s stock price will soar.

After the market close on Wednesday, GameStop CEO Matthew Furlong fired and appointed Cohen as executive chairman, effective immediately. The stock fell more than 20% in extended trading after the disclosure. The company did not give a reason for the layoff.

The filing states that Cohen will be responsible for allocating capital, evaluating potential investments and acquisitions, and overseeing managers of GameStop’s holdings.

“Not for long,” Cohen tweeted about half an hour after the announcement.

To learn more about the fanatical following behind Ryan Cohen, watch CNBC Documentaries’ Making of the Meme King on Peacock or stream it on

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