Bill Dobbie, the technology entrepreneur who co-founded dating website operator Cupid, is to stand down as chief executive of the company.
The surprise move will see Dobbie – who owns 17 per cent of the firm worth some £8 million and who received a £597,000 pay package last year – become a non-executive director at the owner of brands such as Uniformdating.com.
Earlier this year the firm faced allegations that members of staff posed as customers to persuade users to take out subscriptions, but Cupid said an independent review had found the claims to be “without substance”.
The company said the decision to step down was Dobbie’s and that, with the business now in a stable position, he wanted to focus on his other business interests.
Phil Gripton, Cupid’s 45-year-old managing director of dating services and previously head of Edinburgh-based online marketing firm Bigmouthmedia, will take over from Dobbie with effect from Sunday.
Gripton, who has also had senior leadership roles with technology businesses including Cable & Wireless and ICL Fujitsu, said he believed it was a “pivotal time” for the business.
He added: “Although Cupid’s brands have grown well, I believe there is much more potential for them.
“I’m confident our teams can deliver the best user experience for our global customers and ultimately create value for our shareholders.”
Cupid’s chairman, George Elliott, said: “Bill has led the group through its initial public offering and beyond and his decision to step down as chief executive is at a time where Bill and the board have re-aligned the group’s strategy and are now building upon a stronger more focused organisation.”
In July, Cupid agreed to sell its “casual dating” business – including websites such as Benaughty.com and Flirt.com – to co-founder Max Polyakov in a deal worth £45.1m.
Shares in the company, which have fallen by more than 70 per cent this year, closed down a further 2p at 55.5p.