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Bumble parent told to implement workplace reforms after sexism allegations

January 30, 2020, 10:18 AM UTC
Portrait of Andrey Andreev
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: In this handout photo provided by MagicLab, (Badoo, Bumble, Chappy & Lumen), CEO & Founder, Andrey Andreev appears in his HQ on November 08, 2019 in London, England.
Photo by Levon Biss/MagicLab via Getty Images

MagicLab, the parent company of well-known dating sites Bumble and Badoo, should reform its workplace policies following allegations of sexual harassment, a U.K. law firm has found.

MagicLab hired Doyle Clayton, a British firm specializing in employment law, to investigate allegations of a misogynistic and hostile work environment for women raised in a July Forbes story.

Following a six month investigation, Doyle Clayton said in statement released late Tuesday that Magic Lab should enforce “appropriate employee conduct at company parties and social events,” make it easier for whistleblowers to come forward, and report misconduct and improved diversity and inclusion training for employees.

Doyle Clayton said MagicLab’s board had unanimously accepted its eight recommendations. The firm released its statement less than 48 hours before Blackstone, the private equity group, completed its $3 billion purchase of MagicLab. The deal formally closed Thursday morning.

As part of that deal, MagicLab’s founder and CEO Andrey Andreev is selling his stake in the company and leaving the business. Whitney Wolfe Herd, the co-founder and CEO of Bumble, a dating app that markets itself as empowering women with its “women make the first move” policy, is taking over as CEO of the parent company.

Blackstone was not immediately available for comment on the Doyle Clayton report.

In its statement, Doyle Clayton said there was “a lack of credible evidence in relation to most” of 24 specific allegations Forbes raised in its story, including “the more serious ones.” It did, however, find there was evidence to support three allegations, which it described as “minor,” and to partially support three other “minor allegations.” It did not specify in the statement, however, which allegations it was referring to.

“The central allegation made by the Forbes article—that there is currently a misogynistic atmosphere at [MagicLab’s] London office is incorrect,” the Doyle Clayton’s statement says. “Nevertheless, the investigation did identify a small number of current and former employees who feel that there are elements of sexism at MagicLab.”

MagicLab founder Andreev tells Fortune he is not at liberty to reveal more about Doyle Clayton’s report. But he says he “feels relief” at the firm’s findings.

He added that he was “sad” female employees who were concerned about sexism never brought those concerns to his attention. “My duty as CEO was to fix the problem, any problem,” he says. “I am still sad that people have been hurt and they never told me.”

Andreev says that he considers Doyle Clayton’s recommendations for improvements to MagicLab’s employee procedures and training fair. “I think Whitney and management will have a lot of things to do to implement the recommendations,” he says.

The Forbes story alleged there was a boorish work culture at the London office of Badoo, which claims more than 460 million users globally and is one of the most popular dating apps in Latin America. The London office also serves as the headquarters for MagicLab and the main engineering office for its dating apps, which in addition to Bumble and Badoo, include Lumen, a dating app aimed at over-50-year-olds, and Chappy, a gay dating app. Bumble’s headquarters and marketing operations are based in Austin, Texas.

Among the most serious allegations in the Forbes story was a claim that a female employee was pressured to watch a video of a male colleague receiving oral sex from a prostitute, that the firm had been too lenient with male employees accused of sexual harassment and bullying, that sexual banter was often used in the office, that managers, including Andreev, made frequent comments about women’s appearance and used misogynistic language, and that the company’s female marketing officer was told to “act pretty” for investors and was once asked to give a job prospect a massage.

Andreev founded Badoo in 2006. It pioneered the freemium business model for dating apps that was later adopted by Tinder and others. Wolfe Herd had been an executive at Tinder, but left amid claims she was sexually harassed by Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen after she ended a relationship with him. She and Andreev launched Bumble as a kind of “anti-Tinder” in late 2014.

The Russian-born entrepreneur is circumspect about his next steps but says he is planning to launch “a big revolutionary project for the charity world.” Andreev says he “will bring digital to the charity world same as we brought digital to the dating world many years ago.” With Blackstone’s permission, he says, 20 MagicLab employees are leaving to join this new venture.

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