Tinder’s controversial co-founder deleted a trove of work emails even as he vowed to “destroy” the executive who succeeded him as CEO as they feuded over the hookup app’s sale to Barry Diller’s media empire, court papers show.
Sean Rad — who is demanding a staggering $2 billion in a lawsuit against Diller’s company IAC, alleging he was duped about Tinder’s true market value when he sold his stake — deleted a series of emails on his company account amid a feud with his successor, Greg Blatt, over the valuation of Tinder, according to legal documents.
In an April 2017 text exchange between Rad and Shiva Kumar, who was an investment banker at Jefferies working as Rad’s financial adviser, Kumar wrote, “Sean — just confirming that you are going to delete all your work emails. Assume this is your personal phone.”
“Yes,” replied Rad. “And yes.”
The same day, court papers show that Rad sent an email to another Jefferies banker pledging to “destroy” Blatt, who led Tinder during the valuation process. He then deleted the email, which could only be recovered because Jefferies retained a copy, according to attorneys for IAC and Match Group.
“We’re at war,” wrote Rad. “We’ll destroy him. This is going to be the biggest lesson of his life.”
Rad also asked a Tinder engineer how long deleted emails could be recovered from company servers, according to Slack messages exposed in court proceedings.
The court documents were made public as part of a suit filed by Rad and other Tinder co-founders against Diller’s companies IAC and Match Group. Rad and the co-founders say they were swindled out of billions of dollars when the companies absorbed Tinder in 2017.
During the acquisition, which came years after Rad and other co-founders created Tinder as part of an IAC incubator, the founders were paid based on a Tinder valuation of $3 billion — an unfairly low price based on bogus “doom-and gloom numbers” that Diller’s companies shared with investment bankers, according to Rad and the co-founders.
They’re facing off in a New York state Supreme Court jury trial, with opening arguments set to kick off on Nov. 8. Diller, Rad and Blatt are all expected to testify in an online trial likely to last for several weeks.
Rad’s camp has said that he backed up the emails that were deleted from his work account. They’ve also argued that Jefferies had intended to send the since-deleted emails to Rad’s personal account and that deleting them was necessary because Match executives including Blatt were spying on him throughout the valuation process — a claim that’s backed up by an internal email in which Blatt said, “Let’s pull all their emails from the whole cabal.”
But Joel Cohen, the judge overseeing the case, nonetheless said in an October hearing that Rad had a legal “duty to preserve” the emails and that, while the Jefferies emails were recovered, it’s difficult to know whether other emails are missing.
“The deleted emails are, as you probably can tell, the most troubling to me,” said Cohen in an October hearing. “It’s clear that not all of them were backed up or something happened where there’s a gap in the evidence as to where things stand and there’s really no way to prove one way or the other whether all the emails have been retrieved.”
Cohen has also asked Match to investigate whether the company preserved Rad’s emails for any other unrelated litigation in order to establish whether any of Rad’s emails are actually missing.
Rad’s camp has dismissed the email question as a “red herring” designed to distract from their primary claim: Diller’s media empire cooked the books to give Tinder a $3 billion valuation when it should have been worth far more, cheating Rad and his co-founders out of billions, according to Rad’s claim.
As evidence, Rad’s camp has pointed to a 2016 recruiting deck that Blatt shared with a potential hire. The deck, which was shared the year before IAC and Match ultimately valued Tinder at $3 billion, included estimates that Tinder could be valued at $7 billion to $12 billion.
“Baseless attacks on Sean Rad’s character won’t change the fact that IAC and Match lied to the banks in 2017 and will soon be held accountable for their multi-billion dollar swindle,” said Orin Snyder, an attorney for Rad, in a scathing statement to The Post. “Next week a jury will finally see the overwhelming evidence of how IAC and Match cheated Tinder’s founders and employees out of more than $2 billion by corrupting the valuation of Tinder.”
The trial will mark the culmination of years of nastiness between Rad and Diller’s companies. While still working for Diller, Rad once drew Diller’s initials — “BD” — in the shape of a penis in a text message to then-Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe, who later went on to found Bumble.
The penis put-down was made public in 2014 as part of a suit Wolfe filed against Tinder and IAC, alleging that Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen sexually harassed her. That case was later settled with no admission of wrongdoing.
Thomas Claps, an attorney and legal and regulatory analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, predicts that the trial could be “unpredictable” for Match Group, which was spun out from IAC in 2020 and also owns other dating apps including Hinge, OkCupid and PlentyOfFish. Match may be considering a settlement with Rad, Claps said.
“There is the potential for trial ‘fireworks’ that could lead to negative headlines for IAC/MTCH and could cause them to strongly consider a settlement,” Claps wrote in a Monday analyst note. “We continue to believe this case will end in a settlement before a jury verdict is reached.”
If the two groups reached a settlement, Claps estimates that Match would pay Rad and the other co-founders $300 million to $700 million.
Match Group spokesperson Justine Sacco said the Susquehanna report was “clearly speculative” but did not rule out the prospect of a settlement.
“We are ongoing in litigation and we’re not going to comment on this report,” Sacco said of the analyst note.
Jefferies did not reply to a request for comment.