Tinder CEO loses job after sexual harassment suit

IT'S a classic Silicon Valley tale: young and ambitious entrepreneur hits the jackpot with a multi-million dollar start-up only to lose control of the company he helped create at the hands of a savvy, old school mogul.

Just ask Sean Rad, the co-founder of the popular dating app, Tinder, who is heading for the exit door of the company that has transformed romance in the digital era in the most un-loving way.

The 28-year old was about to take the stage at the Forbes 30 under 30 Summit to unveil Tinder's premium service when he received an unexpected phone call: Tinder's owner, IAC, the Internet clongomerate run by Barry Diller, wanted him out.

But the show went on for Rad: he presented the service, an upgrade that would allow Tinder users to find more matches for a fee, delivered some impressive stats and took photos with supermodel Petra Nemcova as if nothing had happened.

Demoted Tinder CEO Sean Rad
Demoted Tinder CEO Sean Rad

He then took part in a 30-minute Q&A session organised by Forbes magazine and went on live television to sing the praises of the company he had just been demoted from.

But when he arrived at his hotel room in Philadelphia's Hotel Palomar, the mask came off and his world came crashing down.

He was no longer CEO and there was very little he could to stop Diller.

"I went through every stage of mourning at once-fear, a bruised ego," he told Forbes magazine, which broke the news on Tuesday, in an exclusive interview. "I started thinking about the company and my whole future."

He negotiated he would stay at the helm as the company searches for a new chief executive - "an Eric Schmidt-like person"- to replace him. His role going forward is unclear.

His downfall is the latest episode in a turbulent year at Tinder. The company was rocked by a series of scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee.

Whitney Wolfe, Tinder's former president of marketing, alleged co-founder Justin Mateen stripped her of her title and called her "whore" and "gold digger" when the two ended their relationship in a bombshell lawsuit.

Ms Wolfe informed Rad, but he ignored her complaints, according to the lawsuit, which was later settled with no admission of wrongdoing.

However, the embarrassing nature of the allegations led to Mateen's resignation, for Rad the worst was over and he was sure he would keep the job given Tinder's growth rate.

Little did he know Diller, the billionaire owner of IAC, was simply waiting for the right time to strike and tighten his grip on Tinder, which is valued at more than $1 billion.

According to sources speaking to Forbes, the lawsuit was the perfect excuse to ask for Rad's head.

"If the Whitney thing didn't happen it would be difficult for IAC to demote Sean, because they'd have a lot to answer for. But the lawsuit gave them an out," an insider told the magazine.

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