Courting controversy on the eve of an IPO might not be the ideal way to conduct business, but that is precisely the position in which Tinder CEO Sean Rad has found himself today.
As Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, prepares to go public this week in an offering that could value the company at a reported $3.4 billion, a profile of Rad by the London Evening Standard just landed with a portentous thud.
In addition to confusing sapiosexuality and sodomy, Rad appeared to make a veiled threat toward Nancy Jo Sales, the Vanity Fair journalist who wrote a provocative article in August that linked Tinder to a rise in hookup culture. (Tinder notably responded with a Tweetstorm after the story published, even going so far as to cite the “many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people.” The company later apologized for its rant.)
Rad, who had been ousted as Tinder's CEO and resumed the role a day after the Vanity Fair story published, apparently still has an ax to grind. He has done his own “background research” on Sales, he told the Standard, “and there’s some stuff about her as an individual that will make you think differently.” He reportedly refused to elaborate.
This is a dangerous road to tread for any business leader.
“No one’s ever really won by threatening a reporter,” says Martha Steffens, business journalism professor at the University of Missouri, who also serves on the board of the International Press Institute. “Attack back with facts, not with a personal vendetta, because a CEO is changing the story by attacking the reporter. He’s making it personal and taking the focus off of the company.”
Steffens also notes that taking issue with the reporter herself is slightly besides the point given that Vanity Fair, with its slew of editors, fact-checkers and lawyers, is standing behind the story. “It’s not just a personal fight between the reporter and [Rad], because the publication has to stand behind the reporting as well.”
Tinder was not able to immediately comment on the record.
Sales declined to comment.