Blackstone acquires dating apps Bumble and Badoo amid investigation into former owner
(CNN) — Bumble’s embattled owner is getting acquired by investment firm Blackstone.
Blackstone announced Friday that it is buying a majority stake in MagicLab, which owns dating apps including Bumble and Badoo, from Russian billionaire founder Andrey Andreev. As part of the deal, which valued MagicLab at $3 billion, Andreev is selling his stake and stepping down from the business.
The news comes amid increased scrutiny into Andreev. In early July, Forbes reported on allegations of a sexist and toxic work culture at Andreev’s Badoo headquarters in London, citing interviews with 13 former employees of Badoo.
The report included claims — some of which date back to 2011 and 2012 — that Andreev made racist and sexist comments to staffers. The company initially slammed the report, but two days later, Andreev issued a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened by the allegations,” though he maintained that “many of the accusations are inaccurate.” He said the company hired a firm to conduct an outside investigation into the allegations and committed to making those findings public and implementing the recommendations.
“I am taking this situation very seriously to ensure a safe and compliant environment in our organization at all times,” he said at the time.
The investigation was not mentioned in the Blackstone release. A spokesperson for MagicLab told CNN Business in an email that the investigation, which is being conducted by employment law firm Doyle Clayton, is “close to finalising their findings and formal recommendations to the business. As soon as they have formally submitted the report to the Board we will share the key results and recommendations.”
In a statement provided by Andreev in a press release about news of the deal, he said: “My aim now is to ensure a smooth and successful transition before I embark on a new business venture.”
MagicLab, which says it is focused on solving societal issues, such as misogyny, stereotypes and ageism, was a newly named entity announced in June. It consists of four dating apps, including the oldest, Badoo, a popular international dating app founded by Andreev in 2006.
As part of the acquisition by Blackstone, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd was named CEO of MagicLab.
In a statement, Wolfe Herd called the acquisition a “tremendous opportunity” and said it is “an incredibly important and exciting moment for Bumble and the MagicLab group of brands and team members.”
The allegations against Andreev put Wolfe Herd in an uncomfortable position. Andreev has been a partner to Wolfe Herd since Bumble’s start. Wolfe Herd initially wanted to create a women-focused social network and Andreev, who reached out to Wolfe Herd after she left Tinder, suggested creating a dating app with a similar vision. His company, Badoo, helped provide the infrastructure and he became her primary backer. In 2014, she started Bumble, headquartered in Austin, Texas, with the intention of empowering women to make the first move in its app.
Wolfe Herd previously served as vice president of marketing and cofounder of Tinder, where she sued the company over sexual harassment and discrimination claims. The case was resolved with no admission of wrongdoing shortly before she launched Bumble.
Wolfe Herd initially defended Andreev to Forbes, stating, “He’s become my family and one of my best friends” and that she never witnessed toxic behavior at Badoo headquarters. One day after the article’s publication, she issued a statement saying that she was “saddened and sickened to hear that anyone, of any gender, would ever be made to feel marginalized or mistreated in any capacity at their workplace.”
She reiterated then that an investigation was under way.