‘Unhinged’ Better.com Boss Forced to Take Time Off as Employees Revolt

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Linkedin

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Linkedin

Better.com CEO Vishal Garg is “taking time off effective immediately,” as employees revolt over a mass layoff he executed in brutal fashion at the start of the month.

In an email obtained by The Daily Beast, the company’s board of directors—which had previously granted Garg exceptionally wide latitude—announced that it will bring in a third party firm to conduct a “leadership and cultural assessment.” Vice first reported the news.

Better’s chief financial officer Kevin Ryan, who recently joined from Morgan Stanley, will manage day-to-day operations in the interim.

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“Employees are calling for a head,” a company source told The Daily Beast, arguing that Garg stepping down is a cosmetic fix more than a meaningful one. “It’s the entire leadership team. Vishal’s a large part of it, but there’s a lot more there,” the person said of Better’s fractured culture.

Ryan is an “unknown quantity,” to the rank-and-file, a current employee at the SoftBank-backed mortgage startup said. “We haven’t gotten a real look at his leadership style or personality yet.”

Still, the employee said, “Vishal being forced on leave is one of the best pieces of news to come from this fiasco and I’m hoping it’s announced he resigns soon.”

Ryan’s name was attached to a frosty statement the company sent out on Dec. 1 acknowledging the layoffs.

“A fortress balance sheet and a reduced and focused workforce together set us up to play offense going into a radically evolving homeownership market,” he said at the time.

Better later amended the statement to include acknowledgment that “having to conduct layoffs is gut wrenching, especially this time of year.”

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Reached via text message, Garg said he was “at the playground” with his children and that it was too loud to comment. He directed The Daily Beast to his media team, which did not immediately reply to emails.

Over the past two weeks, multiple high-ranking Better executives have fled the company, including the head of marketing, vice president of communications, and head of public relations.

More resignations are expected. “[The] company culture took a DEEP dive and everyone I’ve spoken to is looking to leave,” another current worker told The Daily Beast earlier this week.

The person was skeptical that Garg could be forced to resign for good: “My guess is after the media coverage dies down, nothing is going to change and he’s just going to go back to his unhinged sociopathic self.”

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The controversy began at the start of the month, when Garg hastily summoned 900 workers into a webinar; many assumed they would be meeting about a $750 million cash infusion Better had announced the day before.

Instead, Garg told the American workers affected that they were out of jobs. “Your employment is terminated effective immediately,” he said, while emphasizing how difficult it was for him to fire them. “The last time I [fired people], I cried. This time I hope to be stronger,” he added.

Garg later declared that many of the terminated staffers had been working two-hour days on average, likening them to thieves.

That message didn’t go over well internally, particularly since many high-performing employees had been laid off, multiple people familiar with the matter said.

Garg tried to win back his staff with an apology letter he emailed on Tuesday. “I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse,” he wrote. “I am deeply sorry and committed to learning from this.”

Many inside the company were skeptical of Garg’s sincerity.

One current worker said that members of the sales team were asked to distribute his apology note to clients, in an effort to dampen a customer revolt.

“It was 1000 percent a PR move, no actual apology,” the worker said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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