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From Scandal to Turnaround: The Resilience of Luckin Coffee

Luckin Coffee: From Rapid Growth to Controversy

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, which makes it a lucrative industry. In recent years, China has become a major player in the global coffee market, and one of its biggest competitors is Luckin Coffee.

However, the company’s rapid growth has been followed by a scandal that shook the coffee industry. In this article, we will explore the history of Luckin Coffee, its rise to fame, and the turmoil that ultimately led to the ousting of its founders.

Founding of Luckin Coffee

Luckin Coffee was founded in 2017 by Charles Zhengyao Lu, who also founded UCAR Inc. and CAR Inc., and Jenny Qian Zhiya, who was previously the Chief Operating Officer of CAR Inc.

The idea behind Luckin was to create a high-quality coffee experience that was accessible and affordable to everyone. The founders were successful entrepreneurs who understood the importance of innovation and market disruption.

Rapid Growth Fueled by Venture Capital and Discounts

Luckin Coffee’s rapid growth was fueled by venture capital and a series of discounts that attracted customers away from its biggest competitor, Starbucks. The company’s business model was centered around its app, which allowed customers to order and pay for coffee on their smartphones.

This approach allowed Luckin to reduce its overhead costs and pass on the savings to its customers. The company also offered a range of discounts that were designed to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal.

These discounts included free coffee for new customers and loyalty points that could be redeemed for free drinks. IPO, Questions, and Expansion into Merchandise and New Product Lines

In May 2019, Luckin Coffee went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange, raising $561 million in its initial public offering.

The company’s IPO was seen as a major success and fueled speculation about its potential as a competitor to Starbucks. However, questions began to arise about the company’s business model and its ability to sustain its rapid growth.

Despite these questions, Luckin continued to expand its business. In addition to its coffee business, the company also expanded into merchandise and new product lines.

This included selling coffee-related products such as mugs and travel tumblers, and introducing new drink options such as smoothies and teas.

The Luckin Coffee Scandal

In January 2020, Muddy Waters Research, a prominent short-selling firm, raised allegations of fraud against Luckin Coffee. Muddy Waters accused the company of fabricating sales numbers and overstating its financial performance.

These allegations caused a significant drop in the company’s share price and raised questions about its credibility.

Internal Investigation and Disclosures Reveal Inflated Sales Numbers

Luckin Coffee conducted an internal investigation into the allegations raised by Muddy Waters. The investigation revealed that the company had indeed fabricated sales numbers and overstated its financial performance.

Luckin’s financial statements for 2019 were revised, reducing the company’s revenue from $732 million to $530 million. Chairman Defaults on Loan Collateralized by Luckin Stock, Lawsuits Filed by Investors

The scandal continued to escalate when it was revealed that Luckin Coffee’s Chairman, Charles Zhengyao Lu, had defaulted on a $518 million loan that was collateralized by the company’s stock.

In response, investors filed a series of lawsuits against Luckin, accusing the company and its executives of fraud and mismanagement.

Delisting from NASDAQ and Ousting of Founders

In June 2020, Luckin Coffee was delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange. The company’s legal troubles and the revelation of its fraudulent practices had destroyed its credibility and led to a significant loss of value for its shareholders.

The founders, Charles Zhengyao Lu and Jenny Qian Zhiya, were ousted from their positions in the company. The future of Luckin Coffee remains uncertain.


In conclusion, Luckin Coffee was a promising company that experienced rapid growth and success. However, its downfall serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of transparency and accountability in business.

The scandal surrounding Luckin Coffee highlights the potential consequences of unethical practices and the importance of due diligence when investing in companies. Luckin Coffee’s downfall was one of the most significant corporate scandals in recent years.

However, the aftermath of the scandal saw a range of developments that have allowed the company to continue operating. In this article, we will explore the consequences of Luckin Coffee’s fraud scandal and the steps taken to address the issues raised.

Fines from Chinese Regulators and the SEC

After the fraudulent practices of Luckin Coffee were exposed, the company faced significant fines from Chinese regulators and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States. In December 2020, the Chinese regulators fined Luckin $9 million for accounting fraud.

The company was also ordered to pay a further $31 million in fines for other violations, including improper advertising. In addition to the fines from Chinese regulators, the SEC also imposed penalties on Luckin Coffee.

The SEC charged the company with fraud and ordered it to pay a $180 million fine. These fines were a significant blow to the company’s finances and further damaged its reputation.

Chapter 15 Bankruptcy and Franchise Model

In February 2021, Luckin Coffee filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the United States. Chapter 15 is a section of the United States Bankruptcy Code that deals with the recognition of foreign bankruptcy proceedings.

This move allowed the company to restructure its operations and finances, with the aim of emerging as a more sustainable business. One of the key changes made by Luckin Coffee was the adoption of a franchise model.

Under this model, the company is no longer directly controlling its stores but is instead franchising them out to independent operators. This shift was designed to reduce the company’s overhead costs and improve its profitability.

Settlement with Shareholders, Acquisition by Centurium Capital, and Turnaround

In March 2021, Luckin Coffee reached a $187.5 million settlement with shareholders who had filed lawsuits against the company. This settlement was seen as a significant step in the company’s efforts to move past the scandal and regain the trust of its investors.

In April 2021, Luckin Coffee was acquired by Centurium Capital, a private equity firm based in China. The acquisition provided Luckin with a much-needed infusion of capital and expertise, allowing the company to restructure its operations and work towards a turnaround.

In the months since the acquisition, Luckin Coffee has implemented a range of changes designed to improve its operations and restore its reputation. The company has undergone significant restructuring, with a focus on reducing costs and improving efficiency.

This has included the closure of underperforming stores and a shift in its marketing strategy to focus on promoting its coffee quality and value proposition.

Expansion Plans and Potential Relisting on Nasdaq

Despite the setbacks caused by the scandal, Luckin Coffee is still committed to growth and expansion. The company has announced plans to open hundreds of new stores in China, with a focus on smaller cities and rural areas.

This expansion is designed to tap into the growing demand for premium coffee products in China and strengthen Luckin’s position in the market. In addition, there are signs that Luckin Coffee may be on track to relist on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

In May 2021, Luckin announced that it had received Nasdaq approval for the listing of its shares. However, the company must first regain compliance with the stock exchange’s listing requirements, a process that could take several months.


The aftermath of the Luckin Coffee scandal has been marked by significant changes and challenges. However, the company has shown resilience and a commitment to addressing the issues raised by the scandal.

The adoption of a franchise model, acquisition by Centurium Capital, and settlement with shareholders have all been steps towards improving the company’s operations and finances. Moreover, Luckin’s expansion plans and potential relisting on the NASDAQ are signs that the company is still committed to growth and innovation.

In summary, the Luckin Coffee scandal sent shockwaves throughout the corporate world, highlighting the importance of ethics, transparency, and accountability in business. However, the aftermath of the scandal has seen significant changes, including fines from regulators, adoption of a franchise model, acquisition by Centurium Capital, and expansion plans.

The lessons learned from the scandal are crucial for companies to ensure that they are always operating ethically and transparently. It is a reminder that the consequences of fraudulent practices can be significant, but with the right steps, it is possible to move forward and regain trust.

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