Tinder Founder Sean Rad Returns as CEO, Replacing Chris Payne

Sean Rad, the co-founder of Tinder, who was replaced as CEO in March, is returning to the job.

As part of the move, Chris Payne — the former eBay and Microsoft exec who was hired in March to give the company more experienced management — is leaving. In addition, Greg Blatt, a top exec at IAC, which owns a big chunk of the fast-growing dating app company, will become executive chairman of Tinder.

In an interview, board member and Benchmark partner Matt Cohler said that Payne did not turn out to be a good “fit” for the company, and so it was decided to move quickly.

“It became clear after a few months that it wasn’t going to become a long-term fit. It’s only been a few months, but everyone came to the realization, the board and Christopher, and all agreed it wouldn’t work out long-term,” said Cohler. “Given that, we thought we might as well take action on this sooner than later.”

With Payne as CEO, Rad had become president and was in charge of product and marketing at Tinder. It was thought that the company needed stronger leadership after a series of internal issues that had caused worry at IAC.

And while bringing a founder back may be cause for celebration, Rad’s reputation isn’t exactly flawless. Under his leadership, the company became embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit, brought against it by former cofounder Whitney Wolfe. Rad stepped down as chief executive in 2014.

Payne joined eBay in 2009 after a software startup called Positronic that he founded was acquired by the company. Before that, he worked for 13 years at Microsoft, including heading its search unit, which was then called Windows Search Live. He also was at Amazon for three years.

The high-profile CEO hire came at an important time for the startup. Last fall, in an unusual investment configuration, Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark took an equity stake in Tinder in exchange for Cohler joining the board to add his experience.

Just this week, Tinder was in the news over a tweetstorm it fired at a Vanity Fair author over a story about how bad dating apps like Tinder are for young people. (Cohler blamed me to that — “I thought that was you,” he joked.)

But, all kidding aside, he was quite forthright about the CEO switch.

“One of the things the board has to navigate is how much the company has to conform to the leader or vice versa. In this case it became clear that both would have to contort themselves too much to make it really work,” said Cohler. “And in this kind of a company that is growing so quickly, everything needs to happen quickly. I’m proud of the fact that everyone around the table had the maturity to look the situation in the eye and take action.”