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Roaring Kitty was poised to become a billionaire but GameStop threw a monkey wrench in the plan

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Keith Gill’s spectacular feat of calling a livestream to celebrate with fans becoming a freshly minted GameStop billionaire in real time came crashing down on Friday after the company announced plans to issue new stock. 

The brick-and-mortar retailer specializing in selling physical copies of console video games said in a surprise regulatory filing shortly before trading began that it would unload up to 75 million shares onto investors, cutting short an anticipated market rally in the title.

“We intend to invest the net proceeds from this offering in short-term, investment-grade, interest-bearing securities,” the prospectus stated.

For Gill, better known as Roaring Kitty, the spur-of-the-moment stock sale wiped out earlier pre-market gains leaving it down 15% in pre-market trading.

Instead of hitting the $65-plus threshold likely needed for the value of his stock and options in the company to approach the ten-digit mark, the meme stock fluctuated wildly around the $42 mark.

As a result of the share issue, GameStop also pre-announced results for the first quarter, originally scheduled for Tuesday, showing its net loss narrowing to $32 million from nearly $51 million in the previous year’s period. 

The company did not appear to appreciate becoming a speculative ball of yarn for the faux feline, warning its shares have “experienced extreme volatility” both in price and trading volume “that do not appear to be based on the underlying fundamental of our business.”

Had Gil, aka Roaring Kitty, decided to exercise his options on his 12 p.m. Eastern livestream, he would have sent brokers scrambling to create millions of shares out of thin air. 

Gil’s strategy of sharing screenshots allegedly showing his positions on social media, or even just related memes, have raised concerns about whether he is exerting so much stress on speculative corners of the stock market that legitimate trading crosses the line to outright manipulation.

As a result, Morgan Stanley’s digital brokerage arm, E*Trade, has reportedly considered whether to remove Gill from its platform to protect its reputation. 

“Oh I have no doubt that the SEC is already looking at this, investigating it as possible market manipulation. But here’s the key point,” former SEC commissioner Michael Piwowar told CNBC on Friday, “there’s nothing obvious about what he’s doing that is illegal under the current rules.” 

There’s a catch to Roaring Kitty’s fortune

There is a catch to Gill’s paper fortune in GameStop, however. 

To reap the rewards of any gains, Gill needs to exit his position at as high a price as possible. Average trading volumes, however, are likely not high enough to sustain that kind of intense selling pressure from a whale of his size. Far from digesting the transaction, the market would almost certainly choke on the surplus shares. 

Barring a clever trading strategy, Roaring Kitty might not have been a paper billionaire for long. 

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