GoPro shares have had a roller coaster ride on the Nasdaq since listing in June, with a persistent rumour that a GoPro camera attached to Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher’s helmet exacerbated injuries from his skiiing accident pulling shares down from a peak of US$93.85 back to around US$67.
Nonetheless, having initially listed at US$24, most investors would still be in positive territory.
But earlier this month market capitalisation dropped US$2.4 billion in just a a week from a high of US$11.8 billion when fresh reports linked Schumacher’s helmet-mounted GoPro to his severe head injuries.
While the GoPro camera he was wearing was virtually undamaged in the accident, in which he hit his head on a rock, his helmet shattered into pieces.
Go Pro has been reported by Forbes magazine as considering legal action against Formula 1 commentator and journalist Jean-Louis Moncet, who revived the rumour in October, saying his comments were negligent and damaging to shareholders.
‘I saw [Schumacher’s] son recently,’ Moncet said two weeks ago to a French radio station (in French). “[Schumacher] is slowly waking up. The problem for Michael was not the hit, but the mounting of the GoPro on his helmet that injured his brain.’
Mocet has since emphasised that he was offering an opinion rather than stating a fact. France does not have the same laws as the United States protecting freedom of the press, enabling GoPro to litigate rather than respond.
GoPro has otherwise been avoiding comment on the matter. IPO documents state that GoPro maintains insurance to protect itself against potential customer complaints.
While the role of the GoPro camera is entirely unproven, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that something solid attached to a helmet could change the protective properties of the helmet. Until helmet-mounted cameras are given the all-clear, there will be a cloud over this part of the actioncam business model.
London’s Telegraph newspaper has previously reported that experts from ENSA, a ski and climbing school in Chamonix, France, have run tests to see if a solid object between a rock and a helmet would cause the helmet to smash. No results have been reported.
Neurosurgeon Paul D’Urso from Melbourne’s Epworth Hospital told ABC Radio that people should be careful with modifications that compromise the structural integrity of sporting equipment, particularly helmets.
‘Any modification of a helmet potentially is going to cause unpredictable results, particularly if there’s a traumatic impact on the helmet,’ Dr D’Urso said.
‘Often we see people, particularly cyclists who might fall from a bicycle, usually the helmets perform very well. It’s not something we’ve seen a lot of with cameras attached to them.
‘I don’t think skiing in Australia is quite as popular as it would be over in Europe, but I’m sure that with time we’re going to potentially see these sorts of problems arise.’
At least one of GoPro’s competitors are exploiting the market leader’s potential weakness (although if it is a weakness, it will be a weakness of the category rather than one brand).
‘GoPro still has a long way to go,’ iON CEO Giovanni Tomaselli, whose company makes a competing action camera, told Forbes magazine. ‘To have a situation where the company’s stock collapses in a week when somebody says that maybe the camera can send someone into a coma, that’s a sign.’