Match Group, the Dallas-based online dating company, goes public Thursday — in the business sense. But Wednesday, the top executive of their biggest brand went public in another way, sharing the details of his personal life in an interview with London’s Evening Standard.
At turns beguiling, confusing and comical, the article detailed a sit-down conversation with Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad, 29, and Tinder vice president of communications Rosette Pambakian. The latter seemed to be present for the purposes of reining Rad in — “That’s it! We’re going to be fired,” she uttered at one point — but that mission proved largely fruitless.
The piece covers Rad’s close relationship with his mother (she calls him every day), his “addiction” to Tinder and even his confusion over sexual vocabulary.
While discussing his preference for “intellectual” girls whom his “friends might think ugly,” Rad told the Evening Standard, “Apparently there’s a term for someone who gets turned on by intellectual stuff. You know, just talking. What’s the word?”
He furrowed his brow. “I want to say ‘sodomy’?'”
What he actually meant was “sapiosexual”: one who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature. Sodomy, of course, means something different entirely.
A quick Google search alerted Rad to his mistake. “What? No, not that,” he said (we imagine with palpable horror). “That’s definitely not me. Oh, my God.”
Perhaps more perplexing than Rad’s understanding of sexual terminology is the timing of the interview. Customarily, a business that is slated to go public embraces a “quiet period” between its initial filing and the day it becomes effective.
Though the restrictions on company executives during this time are vague, they very rarely make public statements in the lead-up to an initial public offering, let alone give uncensored interviews, to avoid any risk of influencing investors’ perception of the stock.
The last technology company to have their quiet period disrupted by loose-lipped leaders was none other than Google. In 2004, the founders of the then-still-young search engine gave an interview to Playboy in which they revealed that details about the state of Google were different from how they were presented in the initial filing.
As Google did at the time, Match Group made a new filing Wednesday night that addressed Rad’s interview.
“The article was not approved or condoned by, and the content of the article was not reviewed by, the Company or any of its affiliates,” the filing reads. “Mr. Rad is not a director or executive officer of the Company and was not authorized to make statements on behalf of the Company for purposes of the article.”
Tinder is owned by Match Group, which priced its IPO at $12 a share Wednesday, according to Reuters. It raised $400 million and is valued at around $4.2 billion, of which Tinder is considered to comprise a significant part. (Rad owns 10 percent of Tinder.)
The new filing made a point of noting an inaccuracy in the Evening Standard’s outline of Tinder’s numbers: “for the month of September 2015, Tinder had approximately 9.6 million daily active users, with Tinder users ‘swiping’ through an average of more than 1.4 billions user profiles each day.” The article actually cited analysts putting the app’s total usership numbers at 80 million.
If Rad’s conversation with the Evening Standard has a negative effect on how Match’s stock performs when it starts trading Thursday, it won’t be the first time he and Tinder have faced a public relations predicament.
Last June, Tinder co-founder and former vice president of marketing Whitney Wolfe filed a sexual harassment and sex discrimination suit against Match that led to Rad’s temporary departure as CEO. Wolfe is the ex-girlfriend of another co-founder, Justin Mateen, who also happens to (still) be Rad’s best friend.
The complaint includes allegations that her co-founder title was inexplicably revoked and that after her relationship with Mateen ended, Mateen repeatedly harassed her about spending time with other men, at one point accusing her of “social climb”-ing with “middle aged Muslim pigs.”
The suit, which spurred a national conversation about women in tech, was settled within months. A spokesperson for IAC/InerActiveCorp, which owns Match Group, told TechCrunch that there was “no admission of wrongdoing.”
In an earlier statement, however, Tinder acknowledged that Mateen had sent “inappropriate” content to Wolfe while denying Wolfe’s allegations about Tinder management.
Though Mateen’s former position at Tinder as chief marketing officer remains suspended, Rad was reinstated as CEO after his replacement, Chris Payne, departed following a tumultuous five months.
There appear to be no hard feelings between the two childhood friends who both grew up in the same Persian Jewish community in Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California, though Rad dropped out after two years.
“He’s like my twin,” Rad told Rolling Stone last October.
The Evening Standard’s Charlotte Edwards observed in the article that in person, Rad “seems more geek than jock” — and he’s certainly tried to present himself as a hopeless romantic who created Tinder for all the right reasons.
Rad likes to tell reporters that he struggled with acne as a teenager and was given his first phone because his parents felt bad for him. In his interview with Evening Standard, he claimed to be “addicted” to the app, which supposedly helps him “fall in love with a new girl” every other week.
Still, he played up the fact that he’s been in four relationships and “loved them all.” (One of them was with Alex Dell, scion of the multinational computer company and poster child for “Rich Kids of Instagram.”) Rad lost his virginity at age 17, in what he called “a serious relationship, my first love.” He told Edwards that he has slept with 20 women — which is either egregious or a “nice low number,” depending on whom you ask.
Rad (far left) appears in an Instagram posted by ex-girlfriend Alexa Dell.
To prove his integrity, Rad shared the anecdote of how he once resisted the charms of a “supermodel, someone really, really famous” who has been “begging” him for sex.
“She’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen but it doesn’t mean that I want to rip her clothes off and have sex wit her,” he said. “Attraction is nuanced.”
What isn’t so nuanced is Rad’s opinion of Vanity Fair reporter Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote a scathing piece holding Tinder responsible for the “Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse” in late August.
The article, which includes extensive interviews with a slew of millennials whose lives are dominated by apps of Tinder’s ilk, paints a bleak portrait of how Tinder has made hooking up so easy that men now don’t even go to the trouble of actually taking women on dates.
“They start out with ‘Send me nudes,'” a woman named Reese told Vanity Fair. “Or they say something like ‘I’m looking for something quick within the next 10 or 20 minutes—are you available?’ ‘O.K., you’re a mile away, tell me your location.’ It’s straight efficiency.”
Tinder swiftly responded to the piece with a lengthy string of tweets, addressing everything from Tinder marriages to users in China and North Korea.
The article still appears to be a sore spot for Rad, who admitted to the Evening Standard that he remains “defensive” and “upset” about it. He further insinuated that he had gathered some incriminating information on Sales after doing “background research” that led him to conclude “there’s some stuff about her as an individual that will make you think differently.”
As for Vanity Fair’s main claim that Tinder advances an unhealthy hookup culture, Rad responded: “Feminism has led to [hookup culture] because now women are more independent and pursuing their desires. And that leads to both parties being more sexually active. It’s not because of Tinder.”
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