In late October, the ex-wife of entrepreneur Dan Price gave a public talk alleging that she had been physically abused by her former husband. A video of the talk, part of a TEDx event at the University of Kentucky, was scheduled to be posted online this month. But after a representative for Price, chief executive officer of Gravity Payments, contacted the university, it decided not to make the video public.
Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about the video in an article about Price in the Dec. 7-Dec. 13 edition of the magazine. Price had risen to fame after announcing he would pay his employees a minimum of $70,000 a year. The article cited inconsistencies in the story Price told the media about his motivations for the well-publicized pay raise.
On Wednesday morning, UKY spokesman Jay Blanton provided a statement from the school’s general counsel, William E. Thro. “Mr. Price’s representatives notified the University of Kentucky that they believed some of the content in the video talk in question was defamatory,” Thro’s statement said. “In light of this concern, the university chose to exercise its discretion not to post the video.” The statement added, “The university takes no position on whether the content was, in fact, defamatory.” Two hours later, Blanton sent a follow up statement, saying the previous comment needed clarification. He wrote that Price’s representative “did not threaten litigation and they are not the direct reason that we decided not to post the video. They raised concerns about the truthfulness of what is said in the video. We don’t know about the veracity of the those [sic] statements or not. We have simply decided not to post the video.”
In a statement, Ryan Pirkle, marketing director of Gravity Payments, said the University confirmed to him that Price and his representatives weren't the reason it decided not to post the video.
Price’s former wife, Kristie Colón, gave a talk on Oct. 28 about the power of writing to overcome trauma. She did not name Price in her talk but read from what she said was a 2006 journal entry detailing physical abuse by her former husband. She has been married only once. “He also threw me to the ground and got on top of me,” she read. “He started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face.”
In November, UKY told Bloomberg Businessweek it planned to post her talk on TED’s website the week of Dec. 7. Late last week, Colón's biography disappeared from the TEDxUKY Web page. The brief bio had said that Colón survived a relationship that "was abusive in every sense of the word.”
When asked to comment on the allegations in November, Price initially said he “wouldn’t feel comfortable responding to a supposed allegation she may have said, coming from a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter, when I have absolutely zero evidence of an allegation being made.” He called back three hours later and added, “The events that you described never happened.” Gravity has since told other news outlets that the Bloomberg Businessweek story “contained reckless accusations.”
It is unclear if a copy of the talk still exists. Blanton wrote that the university is “no longer in possession of it.” Katrina Saleen, Colón’s attorney, did not respond to a request to comment.
TEDx events are independently organized by groups approved by TED. TEDx organizers license TED's online tools and branding but are responsible for choosing speakers and producing video recordings of the talks. Margaret Sullivan, an executive at the communications firm Group SJR, which represents TED, said, “Decisions about individual TEDx events are made by the TEDx organizers.”