Ashley Madison dating site for adulterous clients reboots under new leaders

TORONTO – Ashley Madison, the infidelity dating company that was hit last year by a massive hack, now hopes that a more inclusive, female-friendly site — and new leadership — will help it woo new customers.

The Toronto-based company’s planned makeover is part of a broader strategy to rebuild the business that was left in shambles after last summer’s security breach, which exposed the personal dealings and financial information of millions of purported clients.

The cyberattack that made global headlines cost Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, about a quarter of its annual revenue, its new president and CEO said Tuesday.

The revamp also comes as the company is being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a probe launched after the security incident, they said.

“We felt this was a great opportunity in time for the company to reinvent itself. In 2016, the world is vastly different than it was in 2010,” said Avid’s new CEO, Rob Segal.

The company found that roughly 45 per cent of Ashley Madison users are single and the balance were “looking for other experiences and other types of things” besides the infidelity trumpeted under the previous regime, including polyamory, he said.

Segal gave few details about how the site aims to appeal to women, saying only that a “vastly different approach” would play out in coming weeks.

Avid is also looking to purchase other dating sites in an effort to expand, said the company’s new president, James Millership.

The company has invested millions in security over the past year, hiring Deloitte to monitor its systems around the clock and striving to achieve the top level of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance, a benchmark Millership said only a handful of dating sites have reached.

Avid’s founder and former CEO Noel Biderman left last August in the wake of the hacking attack — which raised questions about whether the company would be able to survive.

Ashley Madison was also plagued by allegations that it resorted to fake profiles of women — commonly known as bots — to lure unsuspecting male customers.

The company had consistently denied the accusations but an Ernst & Young report it commissioned found the bots were still active in some parts of the world until late last year, Avid said.

“The bots, in terms of industry practice, it seems to be fairly widespread within the online dating space,” Millership said. “Under our leadership it certainly will not occur.”

Since the breach, membership has grown, he said, but revenue has declined 25 to 28 per cent to a projected $80 million this year, a drop he attributes to the loss of some of the company’s largest customers.

Regaining that trust is the top priority, Millership said.

“We understand as new leadership here that we have a long road ahead and we’ve got to continue to do right by our customers.”id.

The company will stay in Toronto, where it employs 136 people, and move to a new office in the fall.