Match reaches $441 million settlement with Tinder over valuation

December 1, 2021, 3:07 PM UTC
Updated December 1, 2021, 3:09 PM UTC

Match Group Inc. said it will pay $441 million to resolve a hard-fought legal battle with Tinder’s founders over the valuation of the mobile dating app, ending a nearly month-long trial just before it went to the jury.

Match announced the settlement on Wednesday morning, a day before the parties were to give closing statements in the trial over a lawsuit brought by Tinder founder Sean Rad and other early executives and employees against Match and its controlling investor, IAC/Interactive Corp. 

Rad, who created Tinder during a hackathon at IAC’s Hatch Labs incubator, and the other plaintiffs in the case say they were cheated by the companies, which valued Tinder at $3 billion in 2017, instead of the $13.2 billion they claim it was actually worth.

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Schettenhelm had said throughout the trial that a settlement, possibly for hundreds of millions of dollars, was possible. Schettenhelm said that Match had a 70% chance of winning.

Risky trial

“The biggest surprise to me is that a deal took this long,” Schettenhelm said. “This is a substantial settlement, but letting a jury decide a billion-dollar question simply carries too much risk. This removes the issue as an overhang and should let the company move on.”

Match shares rose as much as 3.7% in pre-market trading. They had fallen more than 14% this year through Tuesday. IAC shares rose as much as 2.9% in pre-market trading. They’d climbed more than 38% so far this year.

The trial featured testimony from witnesses including Rad, IAC Chairman Barry Diller and former Match Group Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Greg Blatt.

Rad and other early employees and executives sued IAC and Match in 2018, alleging the companies provided false information about the app’s financial prospects to the banks that were hired to estimate its market value, in order to produce a assessment well below the $13 billion they claim it was worth. 

Rad and the other early employees say they were granted options that entitled them to more than 20% of the company under a 2014 agreement that required Match to hire investment banks to independently value Tinder on four specific dates between May 2017 and May 2021. 

Lowball valuation?

They alleged Match and its controlling investor, IAC, engineered a lowball valuation of the app by feeding information to the banks that underplayed its future growth prospects while excluding Rad from the process—then terminated the agreement, merged Tinder into its parent company and launched a new premium service, Tinder Gold, the next day.

IAC and Match contended that the banks independently assessed Tinder’s value after considering information from both sides. The companies said Rad fully participated in the process and that the plaintiffs sold their options for more than $700 million, which included $400 million for Rad, and are simply bitter that they missed out on Tinder’s explosive growth. 

The case is Rad v. IAC/InterActiveCorp, 654038/2018, Supreme Court of the State of New York (Manhattan).

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