The largest shareholder in Santa Monica-based mall owner and investor Macerich Co. has shed its entire stake.
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which had owned approximately 16.4% of Macerich’s stock, sold nearly 25 million shares in the company for more than $497 million.

The sale is part of a run of mixed luck by Macerich in recent weeks. The company’s stock leapt nearly 60% in value in one week in late January, hitting a peak closing price of $22.38 on Jan. 27. It gave back all of those gains and more in less than a week, closing at $12.31 a share on Feb. 2.

The driving force behind these rapid fluctuations was speculative buying by individual investors. Such investors have roiled markets in recent weeks by buying up shares in companies that are strongly out of favor with mainstream markets.

The best known example is video game retailer GameStop Corp., which exploded in value after individual investors organized through social media platform Reddit began buying vast amounts of the company’s stock. GameStop’s share price jumped roughly 400% between market closes on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.

Macerich appears to have been caught up in the GameStop frenzy with some individual investors referring to the company as GameStop’s landlord alongside calls to buy Macerich shares. Though these actions drove up the Santa Monica-based company’s share price, it might now be worse off.

Macerich’s share price has been on a downward trajectory for much of the last five years as consumers shifted away from traditional retail and toward ecommerce — a trend accelerated by consumer adoption of at-home shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The temporary value spike in late January provided the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan an opportunity to pull out of Macerich without significant losses. It also signaled a lack of confidence in the mall owner’s future by its largest shareholder, further weakening the stock’s appeal to mainstream investors.

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