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One thing to start: New York hedge fund SRS Investment Management stands to make billions of dollars on a sudden leap in the shares of Avis Budget, the once ailing rental car company that catapulted like a meme stock after executives discussed adding electric vehicles to their fleet. Full story here.

Avis’s stock jumped by more than 200 per cent on Tuesday after executives discussed adding electric vehicles to its fleet, before falling back to a 95 per cent rise

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Another Tinder relationship ends in a messy divorce. Shocking

A “shy twenty-something, [who] struggled to make initial connections with women”, as court papers describe him, Sean Rad’s desire for connection led him to create the matchmaking app Tinder, where 57m users worldwide seek romance, or to have fun.

But it wasn’t his soulmate that Rad would encounter in the early days of Tinder, which he founded with his business partner Justin Mateen in 2012. It was the media mogul Barry Diller, whose IAC start-up incubator Hatch Labs seeded the dating app.

Barry Diller, left, had sought promising internet businesses for his media empire and Sean Rad’s dating app became one of its star performers © FT montage; Bloomberg

Already Tinder’s largest shareholder at the time, IAC in 2014 purchased an additional 10 per cent from the former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook executive and serial Spac sponsor.

IAC’s online dating unit Match Group and Tinder seemed to be a match made in heaven. Diller’s media empire granted Rad and his team a fifth of the Tinder business in the form of stock options that could be swapped into shares of the listed parent company.

(And while there’s no indication that Tinder’s algorithm favours its founders, Rad seemed to be having a good time. “Every other week I fall in love with a new girl,” he told the Evening Standard in 2015.)

Bumble’s February 2021 listing has made founder Whitney Wolfe a billionaire

But Tinder’s honeymoon phase quickly began to unravel. Whitney Wolfe, one of the app’s early employees, sued the company for sexual harassment and discrimination — litigation that was settled with no admission of wrongdoing. She then went on to launch Tinder’s top competitor Bumble, becoming a billionaire in the process.

Rad was demoted as chief executive in 2014 in the wake of Wolfe’s suit, while Mateen was suspended before eventually leaving the company. And things were only about to get messier.

Just before a rendering of Tinder’s valuation in 2017 — a process that would determine the worth of the early employee options awarded to Rad and his fellow founders — IAC replaced Rad as chief executive with Diller’s longtime ally, Greg Blatt.

Once Tinder’s investment bankers at Barclays and Deutsche Bank gave the company a $3bn valuation, Match immediately merged with it — a move that cancelled out future valuation opportunities for Rad and his fellow founders to benefit from their 20 per cent ownership.

Sean Rad, left, and Greg Blatt, middle, pictured beside former Match Group chief executive Sam Yagan during Match Group’s New York initial public offering on November 20, 2015 © Getty Images

Now, the lawsuit Rad and his former colleagues filed three years ago is headed to trial alleging that IAC and Match intentionally lowballed the valuation just as Tinder’s popularity was surging (its enterprise value is worth over $45bn today), thus giving them a smaller piece of the pie.

“Fuck [Blatt]. We’re at war. We will destroy him. This is going to be the biggest lesson of his life,” Rad wrote to one of his investment bankers in 2017, according to court papers.

Diller may claim that all’s fair in love and war, but a jury will have the final say.

For now, we’ll chalk it up as one of the many failed love affairs sparked online, as this FT reader has:

Politics take centre stage in a French takeover battle

The sale of a French energy and building services business should’ve been as low-key a deal as it sounds, not an event steeped in political intrigue.

But Engie’s spin-off of its Equans unit is shaping up into something of a test of France’s reputation for meddling in corporate affairs. It has all the makings of a good drama as well-connected billionaire Martin Bouygues faces off against an American private equity firm in the auction.

Catherine MacGregor, Engie’s chief executive, plans to dispose of up to €10bn worth of non-core businesses this year © REUTERS

The spin-off comes as Engie’s chief executive Catherine MacGregor plans to dispose of up to €10bn worth of non-core businesses this year. She has already struck deals to sell stakes in LNG specialist GTT and gas network GRTgaz. The Equans transaction will be Engie’s biggest yet.

Three groups handed in their final offers on Tuesday, which are expected to come in at between €6bn and €7bn: the Bouygues telecoms and media conglomerate, Bain Capital, and French civil engineering firm Eiffage.

Underscoring the theatrics, Engie’s head of audit committee oversaw a simultaneous unsealing of the bids, sources close to the matter said, after some parties lobbied for a tighter process to stop rivals from stealing a sneak peek at offer prices.

The auction is the culmination of weeks of sniping behind the scenes and swirling suspicion about who the French government would give its blessing to, given that the state owns nearly 24 per cent of Engie.

Some of that angst was directed at Bouygues, known for his close ties to French president Emmanuel Macron.

Martin Bouygues pictured in 2014 © Reuters

But the optics surrounding the sale of a big employer are also at play ahead of next year’s presidential election. More than a third of Equans’ 74,000 workers, specialising in everything from installing fire sprinklers to heating systems for industrial clients, are in France.

That made it an especially punchy proposition for foreign private equity firms, who at the outset also included Apollo Global Management, Carlyle and a consortium of CVC and PAI. Although on the face of it, France has warmed up more to international investors under Macron, this will be the latest test of just how real that change is.

The funds went out of their way to woo unions as a result — which has now prompted a counter-intuitively warm reception to Bain’s proposal from some worker representatives, upping the stakes as Engie weighs up the offers in the coming days.

Citigroup loses some deadweight

While Citigroup may be eclipsing its Wall Street rivals in terms of progressivism — its captain Jane Fraser became the first woman to run a big US bank — it has lagged its peers in terms of profits and share price for years.

Perhaps that’s why the US bank is preparing to scale back retail banking across much of Asia, leaving behind its ambitions to become a global consumer lender and giving way to investors and analysts who have long complained of its sprawling size.

Line chart of  showing Citi shares have recovered from the pandemic but the bank still trails rivals

Citi’s consumer business — which is lossmaking in the Asian markets that it’s departing and provides lacklustre returns elsewhere — has attracted about 40 final bids from rival banks, insiders tell the FT, including Standard Chartered and Singapore’s DBS Bank.

Fraser instead plans to focus on areas including wealth management, where the bank has already been pivoting much of its Asia operations.

Citi chief Jane Fraser announced that the Asia consumer businesses would be sold just five weeks after she took on the top job in February © Bloomberg

The bank has struggled to meet key profitability targets since the financial crisis. Now investors, who have long regarded Citi’s Asia consumer business as a source of ire, are welcoming the deal with open arms.

As put by Wells Fargo analyst Mike Mayo: it’s “a decade overdue”.

Job moves

  • Blackstone has appointed Ryusuke Shigetomi as chair to oversee the firm’s operations in Japan. He joins from Morgan Stanley, where he was vice-chair of global investment banking and a managing director for Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities’ investment banking division.

  • Davis Polk has hired Corey Goodman as a partner in its tax practice, based in New York. He joins from Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.

  • Urs Grob, former Credit Suisse chief of staff, has joined corporate communications firm Dynamics Group as a partner.

  • Brunswick Group has hired Tamzin Booth as a partner in London. She will join on February 1 after spending 20 years at The Economist, where she was most recently technology and business editor.

  • McDermott Will & Emery has promoted 41 lawyers to partner.

Smart reads

Setting the stage From K-Pop megastars to Netflix’s record-shattering show Squid Game, South Korea is churning out content gold at a record pace. But the country’s entertainment groups have grown tired of sharing their loot with foreign distribution platforms. (FT)

Cryptocracy Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prolific venture capital firms, is carving a stake in the world of digital currency. And it wants to write the rules for how the uncharted sector is regulated too. (New York Times)

The road to nowhere A crippling labour shortage has sent the UK scrambling to find truckers willing to put up with the gruelling daily hauls. Here’s what the day in the life of a British truck driver looks like. (FT)

News round-up

US regulators sue to stop Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster merger (FT)

EY’s UK partners handed record pay as deals boom (FT + Lex)

BlackRock sells almost half its stake in THG (FT)

Apollo posts record profits after selling spree (FT)

DuPont: stockings pioneer plays snakes and ladders with M&A (Lex)

Electric vehicle maker Rivian targets up to $53bn valuation in IPO (FT)

Natixis chief targets acquisitions and hints at IPO (FT)

Daily Mail owner DMGT nears pension deal (FT)

Law firms in Hong Kong in the line of fire (FT Opinion)

Due Diligence is written by Arash Massoudi, Kaye Wiggins and Robert Smith in London, Javier Espinoza in Brussels, James Fontanella-Khan, Ortenca Aliaj, Sujeet Indap, Eric Platt, Mark Vandevelde, Francesca Friday and Antoine Gara in New York and Miles Kruppa in San Francisco. Please send feedback to due.diligence@ft.com

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