The Seattle CEO from Idaho who rose to national prominence for setting a $70,000 minimum salary for all his employees — and slashing his own to match — has resigned from the company he founded in college amid accusations of misdemeanor assault.
Dan Price said he was stepping down from Gravity Payments, a credit card processing firm, to dedicate more time to “fighting false allegations.” Earlier this year, he was accused of attempting to kiss a woman against her will, the Seattle Times reported.
Price resigned shortly before The New York Times published an investigative story detailing allegations by numerous women of improper behavior. “Mr. Price’s internet fame has enabled a pattern of abuse in his personal life and hostile behavior at his company, interviews with more than 50 people, documents and police reports show,” the Times article said.
“My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here,” Price wrote in an email to his staff that he also shared on Twitter on Wednesday night. “I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me,” adding, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Price did not elaborate on the allegations or immediately respond to a request for comment. Gravity Payments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A frequent critic of corporate executives and the vast pay gap between them and their workers, Price rose to fame in 2015 after announcing he would raise every employee’s salary to at least $70,000. At that time, his 120 employees were paid an average salary of $48,000 a year, according to the Times.
He also reduced his own $1 million compensation to that floor, taking a more than 90% pay cut, and tapped roughly three-quarters of that year’s profits to cover the higher wages, the report added. Price said he would keep his salary low until the profits were earned back.
On Twitter Price touted the success of his company’s model and the benefits afforded to employees. The minimum pay for workers is now $80,000, he said, and staff members received $10,000 baseline raises this year. Job openings typically attract more than 300 applicants, he said.
The original salary floor was set the same year Price won a legal battle against his older brother, Lucas Price. A three-week court battle ensued after his brother alleged that his rights as a minority shareholder were violated when Dan Price upped his own salary later that year. A King County Superior Court judge disagreed and ordered Lucas Price to pay his brother’s legal fees, totaling $1.3 million.
Price was 19 when he started Gravity Payments in 2004 out of his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University, using seed money from Lucas Price, according to the Times.
In 2019, Dan Price visited Boise to open a Gravity Payments office at at 110 N. 27th St., where 40 people worked.
Now 38, Price’s public persona is shaped around his advocacy for average workers and criticism of big business. He authored a 2020 book titled, “Worth It: How a Million-Dollar Pay Cut and a $70,000 Minimum Wage Revealed a Better Way of Doing Business.”
He also wrote that 98% of Gravity Payments employees volunteered to temporarily cut their pay from 5 to 100% to avoid layoffs. On Wednesday Price said that the company has never laid off a single employee in its 18-year history.
The company’ chief operating officer, Tammi Kroll, has stepped in as CEO, Price said in his announcement.
Idaho Statesman Business and Local News Editor David Staats contributed.