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NEW YORK - When Grindr Inc's Chinese owner sold the popular dating app to an investor consortium last year to comply with a U.S. national security panel order, the parties to the deal gave information to authorities that contradicted disclosures to potential investors and Chinese regulators, Reuters has learned.
They told the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that James Lu, a Chinese-American businessman who is now Grindr’s chairman, had no previous business relationship with a key adviser to the seller, a man named Ding'an Fei, according to a Reuters review of the parties’ written submissions to CFIUS.
Fei, a former private equity executive, was acting as an adviser to Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, Grindr's owner at the time, on the deal, the documents show.
"The investors and Ding'an Fei have at no time conducted business together in their personal capacities prior to the proposed transaction," Kunlun and the investor group, called San Vicente Holdings LLC, wrote to CFIUS in a response dated March 27, 2020.
However, when Lu was raising funds to buy Grindr in the second half of 2019 and early 2020, potential investors were told by firms helping him raise the money that Fei was involved in the effort with him in various capacities, a review of four different fundraising documents shows.
The duo had also done business together in other ventures: Fei was a member of the board of a Chinese restaurant operator in which Lu served as chief executive officer, according to that restaurant company's 2018-2019 annual report.
The discrepancies and omissions in the parties’ response to U.S. authorities, reported by Reuters for the first time, could prompt a new review from CFIUS, according to six former U.S. officials and lawyers familiar with the panel's rules. If CFIUS were to find the statements were not true, it can also lead to civil penalties and criminal charges under the false statement provisions of the U.S. penal code, they said.
"If a transaction was approved based on misrepresentations, that could well invalidate the approval of the transaction," said Brent McIntosh, who served as the Treasury Under Secretary responsible for CFIUS when the Grindr deal was cleared. McIntosh declined to comment on the specifics of Reuters’ findings.
San Vicente spokesman Taylor Ingraham said that "a complete and accurate account of James Lu's relationship with Ding'an Fei, as well as his investments and business activities in China, was provided to CFIUS prior to the agency's approval of San Vicente Holdings' acquisition of Grindr."
Ingraham declined to make Lu, who owns a 17% stake in the buyer's group, available for an interview. Lu, Fei, Kunlun and Grindr did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
CFIUS and the U.S. Treasury Department, which chairs CFIUS, did not respond to requests for comment.