The LGBTQ+ dating app went public on the New York Stock Exchange today through a merger with special purpose vehicle Tiga Acquisition Corp. Shares jumped more than 200%, providing a massive, but possibly temporary, boon to the company’s investors.
Amid a slowdown in public offerings in 2022, one company bucked that trend this week. Grindr, the LGBTQ+ dating app founded in 2009, merged with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, with the stock jumping 493% around 11 a.m. EST before plummeting and to close up 214% at $36.50. per share.
Grindr first announced an agreement to merge with Tiga Acquisition Corp. in May at a valuation of $2.1 billion including debt. Tiga shareholders approved the deal on Tuesday, paving the way for the merger to close on Thursday. Still, 98% of Tiga shareholders opted to redeem their shares for cash at $10.48 per share, rather than converting them into Grindr shares, for a total payout of approximately $284 million.
The few Grindr and Tiga shareholders who kept their shares in the newly merged company got a rather unexpected windfall, at least for now. According to a Nov. 1 filing, about 77% of Grindr’s stock is now owned by Delaware-based San Vicente Holdings LLC. San Vicente’s largest shareholder is G. Raymond Zage III, the 52-year-old chairman and CEO of Tiga, who owns 54% of San Vicente through Singapore-based Tiga Investments Pte. At Grindr’s stock price of $36.50 at market close, Zage’s 43% stake in Grindr was worth around $2.7 billion. Zage is a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and also helped found the Asian division of Farallon Capital, the hedge fund created by the billionaire Tom Steyerin 2002.
San Vicente’s second largest shareholder is James Fu Bin Lu, 40, a former NASA engineer and contractor who also worked at Amazon and Chinese search engine Baidu. He owns 23% of Grindr through his Seattle-based family office, Longview Capital Holdings. Its shares were worth about $1.4 billion at market close.
The catch: Both Zage and Lu pledged all of their stakes in San Vicente to “certain lenders as part of a financing agreement,” meaning they used them as collateral for loans. Forbes discounts on pledged shares by 50%, bringing Zage’s estimated net worth to $1.3 billion and Lu’s to around $720 million. San Vicente’s other two shareholders – Tiga and Farallon Capital chairman and Goldman Sachs alum Ashish Gupta, and J. Michael Gearon, co-owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and founder, president and CEO of the family office Atlanta-based 28th Street Ventures – own shares worth an estimated $280 million and $560 million, respectively. Unlike Zage and Lu, they did not pledge their shares. Representatives for Grindr and Tiga did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Grindr posted a profit of $5.1 million on revenue of $146 million in 2021, compared to a net loss of $13 million and sales of $104 million in 2020. The app operates in more than 190 countries and territories and reported 10.8 million monthly active users in 2021, with approximately 744,000 paying users in June. Still, the app is much smaller than its publicly traded rivals: Bumble, which has a market cap of $4.3 billion, posted a net profit of $287 million on $766 million in revenue in 2021. , while $13 billion (market cap) Match Group – which owns Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid – made a profit of $278 million on $3 billion in sales last year.
Grindr’s ownership has changed several times since it was launched in 2009 by Joel Simkhai. In August 2015, the company was set to be acquired by online dating service Ashley Madison for a price of between $60 million and $70 million, but the deal was ultimately called off, according to Pitchbook. Five months later, in January 2016, Grindr sold a 61.5% stake to Beijing Kunlun Tech, a Beijing-based online gaming operator chaired by a former billionaire. Zhou Yahui, for $98 million. Beijing Kunlun bought the rest of the company for $152 million two years later in January 2018.
But as Grindr prepared for an IPO in 2019, it ran into trouble with the US Treasury Department over national security risks associated with its Chinese ownership. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which has the power to review transactions involving foreign investors in the United States, actually forced Beijing Kunlun to divest its stake in Grindr in March 2019. This led to a year-long effort to sell the company that culminated in June 2020, when a group of investors including Catapult Capital, Joffre Capital, San Vicente Group and Tiga Investments completed a leveraged buyout of Grindr that valued the company at $618 million.
That wasn’t the end of Grindr’s problems: the company was fined $7 million by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority in December 2021 for sending personal data to advertisers without the user’s consent. And last May, the the wall street journal reported that Grindr users’ location data was sold to advertisers from at least 2017 through 2020. “Since early 2020, Grindr has shared less information with advertising partners than any of the major tech platforms and the most of our competitors,” Patrick Lenihan, a spokesperson for Grindr, says the Log at the time, adding that selling this data was no longer possible under Grind’s current privacy practices.
So far, Grindr’s first day as a public company has surpassed that of Bumble, the latest dating app in made public in February 2021. Bumble shares closed 64% higher on its first day of trading, turning its founder Herd of Whitney Wolfe billionaire, with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. But Bumble’s shares soon began to fall. In November 2021, Wolfe Herd was risen from the ranks of billionaires.
Bumble’s stock traded 46% below its IPO price on Friday. It’s a cautionary tale for Grindr, even if it flies high on its first day as a public company.