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The Match Group: We Underestimated Tinder, But So Did Sean Rad

October 9, 2018, 9:14 PM UTC

The Match Group on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of undervaluing Tinder, saying that the dating app’s co-founder, who is among the former employees bringing the suit, was closely involved in Tinder’s valuation and underestimated its potential revenues.

Tinder co-founder Sean Rad and a group of ex-Tinder workers filed the lawsuit in August, alleging that the dating app’s parent company, Match, which is majority owned by IAC, lowballed Tinder’s valuation in July of last year to stop Rad accessing from the full value of his stock options. The group alleges that Match created “a false picture of Tinder’s financial condition and prospects” resulting in “bogus numbers,” or a $3 billion valuation.

In Tuesday’s motion, Match and IAC say that Rad was closely involved in determining that $3-billion number. The companies also allege that, as part of the valuation process, the co-founder estimated that Tinder to bring in $500 million in revenue this year—significantly less than the $800 million they now project for 2018.

“IAC and Match know they cheated Tinder employees out of billions of dollars,” Rad’s attorney Orin Snyder said in a statement. “Their sham valuation is a case study of corporate dishonesty and corruption. When the jury sees the evidence, we are confident the talented team who built Tinder will prevail.”

Match outlines a timeline of events in which Rad worked closely with lawyers and investment bankers alongside Tinder’s owner, and then cashed out his Tinder options as quickly as possible for at least $400 million.

Match, led by CEO Mandy Ginsberg, didn’t predict Tinder’s success over the past year, but neither did Rad, Match claims.

“Sean Rad bet against Tinder, and then watched from the sidelines as Match’s stock increased 150%,” Match said in a statement. “He cannot unwind that gamble now simply because he regrets it.”

Tinder’s explosive growth over the past year is due largely to the success of Tinder Gold, a product introduced in late August 2017 that lets users of the dating app pay to see the people who already swiped right, or yes, on them. According to the Match filing, Rad estimated that Tinder Gold would bring in about $7 million worth of new paying subscribers, while Match bet on $4 million.

Tinder Gold has outperformed both sides’ expectations and Match attributes the 150% increase in the company’s stock to the feature’s success.

In 2017, Match says, Rad projected Tinder’s revenue would be $503 million, and Match predicted $454 million. The valuation, decided by bankers with Barclays, was based on a number that split the difference at $485 million.

Match estimated that revenue growth rates would collapse by more than 90% over the next five years, while Rad predicted a decline in growth of 93% in one set of projections, Match says.

Match says it included these numbers to show that its projections and Rad’s projections weren’t that different. The company aims to prove that while Rad is now claiming Match tried to keep him from Tinder’s full value, really no one knew Tinder would do so well this year.

“Sometimes Barclays agreed with Rad. Sometimes Barclays agreed with Tinder management. And sometimes Barclays arrived at its own views,” Match’s filing says, explaining how Tinder’s valuation was determined.

In its legal argument, Match says that Rad’s effort to increase the value of his stock options is invalid because a reevaluation would have had to take place, by both federal and New York state law, within 90 days of the value of the stock options being established in July 2017.

The original complaint from Rad and his co-plaintiffs included other allegations besides the disagreement over Tinder’s valuation, including a sexual harassment allegation against former Match Group CEO Greg Blatt. Match’s filing on Tuesday didn’t address that allegation.

Rosette Pambakian, Tinder’s vice president of marketing at the time the suit was filed and the person who the lawsuit says was harassed by Blatt, dropped out of the suit in August alongside three other plaintiffs who were still employed at Tinder.

Match is also tied up in a lawsuit with the dating app Bumble, claiming that Bumble stole the dating-app swipe functionality from Tinder. Bumble countersued, accusing Match of lowballing it with an investment offer as a pretext for gaining access to Bumble’s information.

Read Match’s full statement:

Today, IAC and Match Group filed our motion to dismiss the baseless lawsuit brought by Sean Rad and his cohorts. Despite the headlines surrounding Rad’s claims, we believe that the truth matters, and reality is incontrovertible – and the many fabrications, half-truths and omissions that permeate the plaintiffs’ initial complaint can’t change that. Rad was always an employee of IAC/Match, working on a product that was always owned by IAC/Match. Because we believe rewarding and incentivizing long-term value creation is important, we created an equity program for Tinder with a contractually-mandated process for determining Tinder’s valuation that would allow employees to reap the rewards tied to the company’s success. As our motion makes clear, Rad fully participated in the valuation process, advised by lawyers and investment bankers, and provided the banks with his own projections that wildly underestimated Tinder’s success. When the banks determined Tinder’s value Rad exercised his options and cashed out as soon as was permissible. In doing so, Sean Rad bet against Tinder, and then watched from the sidelines as Match’s stock increased 150%. He cannot unwind that gamble now simply because he regrets it. We believe the complaint should be dismissed on the grounds stated in our motion and are confident in the merits of our case. We will continue to vigorously defend our position.