Vishal Garg, the founder of Better.com—who was forced to take time off after brutally axing hundreds of his workers in a monotone webinar—is returning to the job, according to an internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast.
“As you know, Better's CEO Vishal Garg has been taking a break from his full-time duties to reflect on his leadership, reconnect with the values that make Better great and work closely with an executive coach,” read the letter to employees, which was attributed to the company's board.
“Vishal will be resuming his full-time duties as CEO. We are confident in Vishal and in the changes he is committed to making to provide the type of leadership, focus and vision that Better needs at this pivotal time.”
The news was an unwelcome development to some at the mortgage lending startup, which is backed by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
“Nobody wants him back,” said one current employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I know… people who planned to leave if he retained the CEO position, and I plan to be one of them now.”
Garg and Better did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The trouble at Better began in early December, when hundreds of employees were abruptly summoned into a webinar at the start of the workday. Many assumed they were gathering to discuss a $750 million cash infusion the company had received the day before.
Instead, in an emotionless voice, Garg informed the call's participants that they were out of jobs.
“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group,” he said. “Your employment is terminated effective immediately.”
After the call, Garg assailed the employees he had just fired, telling their former co-workers that many had been working two-hour days and likening them to thieves.
A clip of the mass firing quickly went viral on a number of social media platforms, resulting in intense—and unexpected—scrutiny of the startup and its founder.
Within a week of the webinar, Better's head of marketing, head of public relations, and vice president of communications all resigned.
Soon after, Garg was forced to take time off as well.
Since then, the culture has continued to devolve internally. “Operations is a complete dumpster fire right now,” a current employee said. “There’s also a mass exodus in all departments, so that might prevent layoffs purely because of attrition rates. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is running for the door.”
The business appears to be hurting, too. Mortgage refinancings—which have been hugely lucrative for Better—have slowed dramatically. One current worker said that the company has off-shored significant work to India, which has resulted in confusion and mistakes that have delayed signings.
Garg is no stranger to controversy. As Forbes reported in 2020, he once threatened to burn his former business partner alive.
The Daily Beast also reported last fall on massive payouts Garg handed out to one of his top deputies, which raised eyebrows internally.
At least nominally, Garg will have some oversight going forward. The internal memo on Tuesday indicated that the board will be searching for a new chair, along with a company president and chief human resources officer.
Better's chief financial officer, Kevin Ryan, who has been leading the company in Garg's absence, will become interim president.
Two members of the board will also step down, at least one of whom is closely tied to Garg, according to two people familiar with the matter.