Dan Price, CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, has resigned after a tenure marked by praise for bumping all employees’ salaries to $70,000 as well as accusations of misconduct and, most recently, misdemeanor criminal charges.
“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 that he posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
“I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me,” he continued. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Price is currently facing misdemeanor charges related to accusations that he assaulted a woman after a dinner meeting in January.
Price, now 38, started Gravity Payments in 2004 at age 19, using seed money from his older brother Lucas to build out the startup in his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University. He said he got the idea for the credit card processing company while playing in a rock band at a coffee shop.
Gravity Payments markets itself as a service for “the little gal or guy who believes in the American dream and is willing to work to chase it.”
In 2015, Price announced he would raise salaries for all 120 Gravity employees to $70,000, up from an average of $48,000. He cut his own salary from nearly $1 million to match that rate, cementing a name for himself in the business world as a progressive CEO fighting for higher wages and better conditions for the average worker.
On Wednesday, Price said Gravity Payments now pays a minimum wage of $80,000 to all employees, adding that it gave workers a $10,000 raise at the start of this year. The company receives over 300 applications per job opening, he said, and has never laid off a worker in its 18-year history.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Price tweeted.
Meanwhile, Price ran into legal trouble around the same time as the original employee salary bump. His brother Lucas sued him, claiming he was overpaying himself. A King County judge ruled in 2016 that Price had not violated his brother’s rights as a minority shareholder.
Also in 2015, allegations that Price abused his ex-wife Kristie Colon surfaced. A Bloomberg report recounted a TEDx talk given by Colon during which she described being beaten and waterboarded by her ex, without naming Price. Price told Bloomberg those events “never happened.”
Last summer, flyers were spotted around Ballard, where Gravity Payments is headquartered, that read: “Have you been abused by Dan Price? We hear you. We believe you. We support you.”
In February, city of Seattle prosecutors charged Price with misdemeanor assault and reckless driving, following allegations that he attempted to force unwanted kisses on a woman after a business dinner.
According to court documents, the 26-year-old woman called Seattle police on Jan. 24 and reported that she had met Price at a restaurant on Capitol Hill four days earlier. The two had previously communicated on Instagram about work and the woman described Price as a public figure who she had reached out to discuss “professional matters.”
Seattle prosecutors say that Price instead cornered the woman in his Tesla sedan after the dinner, attempted to kiss her and then grabbed her throat when she refused. Relying on the woman’s account, city attorneys contend Price then drove her to a North Seattle parking lot, where he proceeded to drive “doughnuts” with her in the car.
Price pleaded not guilty to the charges in May. Seattle Municipal Court records showed the case remained active Wednesday evening.
Through his attorney, Price has denied prosecutors’ claims.
“Mr. Price respects the legal process and is confident that he will be vindicated in court,” Price’s defense attorney Mark Middaugh wrote in an email to The Seattle Times in April.
Gravity Payments’ Chief Operating Officer Tammi Kroll has been named the new CEO. “The company supports [Price’s] decision to step aside,” Kroll wrote in a statement Price posted on Twitter. “I am grateful to lead Gravity through this new chapter.”
Gravity Payments, which now has 220 employees, says it serves over 13,000 merchants, helping them avoid fees and simplifying credit card processing at the point of sale, as well as helping with mobile and e-commerce payments.
Correction: Kroll’s statement, which says she is “grateful to lead Gravity through this new chapter,” was misquoted in an earlier version of this story.