Roaring Kitty’s GameStop options up millions, but cashing in may be tricky

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – “Roaring Kitty” Keith Gill, the stock influencer behind the 2021 meme stock frenzy, may be sitting on a paper profit of tens of millions of dollars on his position in GameStop options, but reaping those gains might not be easy.

GameStop soared 21% on Monday after Gill’s Reddit account posted a screenshot showing a $116 million bet on the embattled video game retailer. The post, the first from the account in three years, also showed a position of 120,000 GameStop June 21 call options at a strike price of $20, worth $65.7 million at Monday’s close. Call options convey the right to buy shares at a fixed price in the future.

Reuters was unable to independently verify if the Reddit post was made by Keith Gill or if the positions disclosed were authentic.

However, Trade Alert data showed the number of open contracts in GameStop soared to 145,000 by the end of May, from just about 15,000 on May 19. Figuring an average trading price of $5.52 during that period, a buyer of 120,000 options contracts would have been up about $54 million on Monday, based on the contracts’ closing price of $10 a piece.

Exiting an options trade could mean selling the options themselves or taking delivery of the underlying shares. Both choices could be problematic, given the size of the position and the spotlight on GameStop, options mavens said.

It would be difficult to sell even a partial chunk of the options position without drawing attention, potentially knocking down the price of the options as well as the underlying stock, market participants said.

“It’s much easier to sell 10 to 12 million shares than if you sold 120,000 call options,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers and a former options market maker.

It might also damage Gill’s reputation for having “diamond hands” – meme stock parlance for someone with high risk tolerance and an unwillingness to cave under pressure by selling their holdings.

“Unless he is super committed to being a long term investor and taking delivery of (the shares), it’s going to be challenging to monetize this without moving the market just because everybody’s hyper aware of this now,” said Garrett DeSimone, head of quantitative research at OptionMetrics.

The other variant – taking delivery of 12 million shares that the disclosed options contracts command, may require hundreds of millions in capital, analysts said.

One way for Gill to get around this and still make money, options traders said, would be to short 12 million shares of GameStop before the options expire. An investor going short borrows shares and sells them in the hopes of being able to buy back the stock at a lower price in the future.

If GameStop’s share price is above the options’ $20 strike price at expiration, Gill could, in theory, exercise his options – buying the stock at $20 a piece and use the shares to close out his short position.

Using Monday’s closing prices, Gill would be selling the shares at $28 and exercising his options to buy them back at $20, netting himself about $8 per share, or $96 million.

“That would make it seem like he’s still ‘a diamond hands’ and he’s still going to make money,” said Chris Murphy, co-head of derivative strategy at Susquehanna Financial Group.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and David Gregorio)