You’ve probably seen posts from Dan Price, a Seattle-based tech CEO who regularly goes viral for his activism-tinged posts about treating employees well, politics, and how he’s not like other guys when it comes to his leadership style.
“An actual good CEO would never do layoffs ever,” reads one. “A male president was so angry he lost that he incited a mob against the U.S. Capitol. I never want to hear again that women would be ‘too emotional’ to be president,” goes another.
But for years, Price used the progressive good boss persona he cultivated online to allegedly lure, assault, and abuse women, according to a detailed investigation by The New York Times. Price, who was the head of Gravity Payments, resigned as CEO on Wednesday, the day before the Times story was published.
This is far from the first time allegations of Price’s behavior have been made public — it’s happened several times before, and in each case, Price was able to resume building his brand as a “best boss in America.” After Price got scores of good press in 2015 for raising his employees’ minimum pay to $70,000, a Bloomberg Businessweek report — written by Karen Weise, who also wrote the Times piece — detailed the holes in his story. It also noted that his ex-wife had accused him of domestic violence in a TEDx talk that the public never saw. The Times writes:
Mr. Price said those incidents “never happened.”
The video was never made public. Mr. Pirkle said that at Mr. Price’s direction, he contacted the University of Kentucky, which hosted the TEDx talk, saying the presentation could be defamatory. The university said it “simply decided not to post” the video. Mr. Price denied that he directed Mr. Pirkle to contact the university. Mr. Pirkle said he deeply regretted his role in preventing the video from becoming public.
When the Bloomberg Businessweek article ran in December 2015, the reaction was swift. Mr. Price lost a $500,000 book contract and the Hollywood talent agency WME dropped him.
Just as fast as he had risen, he was gone.
The Times story lays out Price’s reemergence around 2019, fueled again by good press, dubious stunts at Gravity, a short collective memory — and, of course, his shameless ability to keep posting through it.
The Times says that “the image fueling his clout, and that attracted his female followers, was a mirage,” based on interviews with more than two dozen former employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, someone else was behind the carefully constructed social media version of Price. He apparently enlisted a ghostwriter to write his posts, who himself had earlier resigned from a job over accusations of sexual harassment.
Fair warning, the Times story includes detailed accounts of sexual assault and abuse. Read the full investigation here.