Tech Scandal

04.08.13

TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington Accused of Abuse

Abuse allegations against the TechCrunch founder have rocked the tech sphere. But just who is the tech mogul, and what does the unfolding scandal say about the secretive nature of Silicon Valley?

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is in the midst of a spectacular fall from grace. After the tech mogul was accused of sexual assault and physical abuse by an ex-girlfriend on Facebook last week, two former confidants of Arrington’s have emerged to voice their belief in the harassment and abuse claims, along with an HR director from a former company where Arrington worked. Arrington himself didn't immediately comment, but on Sunday he took to his blog, writing, "All of the allegations against me are completely untrue, and I've hired a law firm to represent me in the legal actions against the offending parties." On Monday, he tweeted out a picture of her Facebook status, saying, "Everything else aside, Jenn needs help, now," and asking her friends and family to reach out.

But why did all the allegations take so long to come out? Here’s a guide to the scandal unfolding in Silicon Valley.

Who is Michael Arrington?

The 43-year-old magnate started his career as a corporate lawyer but soon became embedded in Silicon Valley’s startup world. Within a few years of launching TechCrunch in 2005, he was topping who’s-who lists and being called “one of the most influential figures on the Web” by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington.

TechCrunch quickly became known as the top influential tech-news site, and Arrington went on to found a venture-capital firm and numerous website projects and become a heavyweight investor. After selling TechCrunch to AOL in 2010 and dramatically departing a year later, he now runs a blog called Uncrunched and occasionally still writes for TechCrunch. His reputation for a hot temperament, public tantrums, and rivalries has emerged via his blogs and other media reports throughout the years. (Huffington also wrote that he was “easy to irritate and apt to air his grudges in public.”)

How did the scandal begin?

At 11:06 p.m. March 29, Arrington’s former girlfriend Jenn Allen  posted a damning status update about their relationship. “It hurts when you love someone borderline and they can’t feel anything at all for you, and threaten to murder you if you told anyone about the physical abuse—all for keeping his reputation,” she wrote. “The emotional abuse was equally bad.” Arrington has so far remained silent on the allegations.

Three days later, Gawker published the post.

Allen, the founder of art-buying site RTist.com, then added fuel to the fire, writing a long comment on the Gawker post that included new accusations that Arrington allegedly raped a friend of hers. (She later confirmed to the site that she was indeed the commenter.) As the news spread, multiple sources close to the tech legend began talking and adding more allegations, though Arrington has not yet responded to the claims.

Another purported victim has denied the allegations. Meghan Asha, who according to Gawker sources was allegedly thrown against a hotel-room wall and repeatedly abused during her relationship with Arrington, came forward to quash the accusations, saying: “None of the claims made on my behalf over the past week are accurate. I’m not inclined to comment on my personal life, Mike and I remain friends.”

What has happened since?

It seems that some in the tech community weren’t particularly surprised at the accusations leveled against Arrington. Since the claims surfaced, a steady stream of stories has been trickling out about about Arrington’s allegedly volatile relationships, piped mainly through Gawker tech reporter Adrian Chen. “It’s been the worst kept rumor in the valley for years,” ex-friend and fellow tech blogger Loren Feldmen said in a YouTube video. “Story after horrific story of unimaginable behavior were told to me in private,” Jason Calacanis, an estranged former business partner, posted on Facebook. Arrington has not responded to either publicly. Gawker also uncovered an investigation by Arrington’s former employer RealNames into accusations that Arrington violently threw a co-worker onto a hotel-room bed and pinned her down in 1999. According to the company’s former head of human resources, he was given a note in his file after the incident, but no further action was taken.

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From left, Clara Shi, Jennifer Allen, Michael Arrington, and Jeff Bloom attend the third annual TechFellow Awards in February 2012 in San Francisco. Allen wrote allegations of phycial and emotion abuse from her ex-boyfriend Arrington on her Facebook page last week. (Steve Jennings/Getty)

So why did no one speak up about Arrington before? No official complaints or charges have been filed against Arrington, despite the accusations made on social media, but commentators are saying that the allegedly buried stories are proof of a culture of secrecy and boys’-club mentality within the tech world. (But not for long, if a new slate of emerging female tech entrepreneurs have their way.)

What has the response been?

Though the story has received little coverage in the tech media, TechCrunch itself isn’t shying away from the story. “We take all of these allegations seriously. We are treating them like any other story of this magnitude, in that we have been working to understand the situation as thoroughly as we can before publishing about it. We have a little more to add at this point, while we are continuing to report the story,” TechCrunch’s Eric Eldon and Alexia Tsotsis wrote in a piece published Friday.

Arrington, for his part, remained silent until Monday, when he posted on his blog. After denying the allegations, he said he would have a "full and complete response" later in the week, promising to "direct as much sunlight as possible on the issues." Before Monday, his Twitter hadn’t been updated since April 1, but the tagline under his handle now holds its own form of potential irony.

It reads: “Be Excellent To Each Other.”

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Monday with a response from Michael Arrington's blog.