HealthTap board fires CEO Ron Gutman following accusations of employee mistreatment

By Jonah Comstock
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CEO Ron Gutman is out at HealthTap, a digital health company that over the years has dabbled in doctor reviews, telemedicine, health app curation, chatbots, employee wellness, and more. 

Recode broke the news of Gutman's dramatic departure after the board took the drastic measure of converting their preferred shares in the company into common shares in order to break a months-long deadlock with Gutman. The move, according to a memo from the board to employees, was a response to complaints about Gutman's treatment of his employees (including abuse, harassment, and intimidation), which were then confirmed by an outside law firm the board hired to investigate him.

The company's new CEO, Bill Gossman, is a veteran CEOs who has led six different companies to acquisitions by the likes of Groupon, Visa, and Proofpoint. Still, the board's decision could signal the beginning of the end for the company, which has not raised fresh funding in five years. 

In a statement reported by TechCrunch, Gutman denied the board's accusations.

"The actions of the VCs are harmful to the Company and in violation of their duties," he wrote. "I will not stand for their effort to take control of the Company unfairly and to the detriment of the Company. I will continue to fight for HealthTap and for all of our employees, our customers, and our users all over the world. My team and I remain committed to saving lives and help people live healthier happier longer lives.”

TechCrunch points out the irony in Gutman's being accused of mistreatment of employees since he's known by some for a heavily-viewed TED talk on the power of smiling. But Gutman's reputation inside the industry is much more mixed. 

Immediately prior to founding HealthTap, Gutman was CEO of Wellsphere, a health information platform that spurred a major controversy in 2009 over what many saw as unethical republishing of content from health bloggers recruited into its network.

Since the Recode news broke, at least one former employee has tweeted backing up the claims of employee mistreatment.

HealthTap was founded in 2010 and has raised $38 million from investors including Khosla Ventures, Mayfield Fund, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.