(Reuters) -Bed Bath & Beyond Inc shares tumbled 35% after the bell on Thursday as billionaire investor Ryan Cohen exited the struggling home goods retailer by selling his stake following a stunning rally in the meme stock this month.
Cohen's RC Ventures was the second largest investor in the company. The venture capital firm said in a regulatory filing that it has no stake as of Aug. 16.
The billionaire declined to comment on further queries.
The company's shares were down at $12.27 in after-hours trading. After gaining nearly 360% this month, the share price had risen to $30 in the previous session when the rout began after RC Ventures said it aims to sell 9.45 million shares, worth $148.6 million.
It also included the sale of its January call options with strike prices between $60 and $80.
When Cohen's firm first disclosed the bullish bet on Tuesday, it boosted retail investor interest and resulted in record trading in the stock.
Brokerage Wedbush downgraded the stock to "underperform" and reaffirmed its price target of $5, saying the stock looks "disconnected from fundamentals" at the current valuation.
"News that Ryan Cohen may be selling his stake in BBBY appears to have spooked the meme stock faithful," said David Jones, strategist at Capital.com.
"Unlike the frenzy of the past, (retail) traders seem more inclined to follow institutional wisdom than to blindly battle for companies with poor fundamentals."
The retailer had in June ousted its chief executive and reported a slump in sales. It had in March added three directors in an agreement with Cohen, who is also the chairman of GameStop.
However, a stock market rebound has rekindled speculative options trading in single stocks among retail investors after volatile markets turned them away from risky bets earlier this year.
So far in August, the sharp run-up in Bed Bath & Beyond shares had burnt a more than $600-million hole in the pockets of those who had bet against the stock, S3 Partners said on Wednesday.
But short interest has increased to 55% of the company's free float as bearish investors managed to find attractive entry points, the analytics firm said. Its ticker was trending high on investor-focused social media platform, stocktwits.com.
(Reporting by Medha Singh, Aishwarya Nair and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Arun Koyyur)