Snapchat Inc. Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel apologized for e-mails he sent during his fraternity days that celebrated getting drunk and convincing sorority women to perform sexual acts.
The profanity-laced e-mails were published yesterday by Gawker Media LLC’s Valleywag blog and mostly related to Spiegel organizing Stanford University fraternity parties for Kappa Sigma in 2009 and 2010. In one missive, Spiegel recounts being so drunk he peed on a woman in bed with him.
“I’m obviously mortified and embarrassed that my idiotic e-mails during my fraternity days were made public,” Spiegel said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “I have no excuse. I’m sorry I wrote them at the time and I was jerk to have written them. They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.”
The disclosure of the e-mails is the latest growing pain faced by Spiegel, 23, whose Los Angeles-based company makes a mobile application for disappearing photo messages. Spiegel last year turned down an acquisition offer from Facebook Inc. for about $3 billion and has been working to build the business. Yet he has encountered snafus, including apologizing in January for a data breach. Earlier this month, Snapchat settled claims by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it deceived users by falsely promising its photo messages disappeared.
Spiegel’s comments may endanger the company’s chances with advertisers once Snapchat develops its business model, said Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, who advises companies on how to handle their online reputations.
“I think he needs to go a lot further than just apologizing and I think he needs to step down,” Schiffer said. “Is a Coca-Cola or a Procter & Gamble or a Pepsi, which has a female CEO, going to want to put millions of dollars into a company when the senior leader talks about women like cattle?”
Mary Ritti, a spokeswoman for Snapchat, declined to comment on Spiegel’s job status.
Spiegel has hired an executive from Google Inc. to take charge of security issues, as well as a lobbyist to educate policymakers about his company. Snapchat’s popularity has continued to grow, with people now sending more than 700 million disappearing “snaps” a day and more than 500 million stories viewed daily, the company has said.
Spiegel isn’t the only technology executive to have to respond to actions from months or years back. Mozilla Corp. CEO Brendan Eich stepped down in April after being criticized for donating money to an anti-gay-marriage group in 2008. That same month, RadiumOne Inc. CEO Gurbaksh Chahal was fired after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor battery counts against his girlfriend from an incident eight months earlier.
“I worry about a world in which everyone is going to be judged by what they said privately to their friends while drunk and in college,” said Irina Raicu, director of the Internet Ethics Program at Santa Clara University. “Here, it’s a really difficult situation because he’s not that far removed from those days and the e-mails are awful.”
Snapchat, born in 2011 in Spiegel’s fraternity house, has raised funding from investors including Institutional Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Benchmark, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and SV Angel. The investors either declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.