Away's former CEO regrets letting 'social media mob' make her step back

Away may take legal action against The Verge over its stories

The co-founder of luggage brand Away said she made a mistake by stepping down as CEO in December and blamed the "social media mob" for influencing her decision after The Verge published multiple unfavorable stories about her and the company.

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Steph Korey, who founded the retail start-up with Jennifer Rubio, told employees Monday that Away "will be making a decision about our legal options" after hiring a top defamation law firm.

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"The inaccurate reporting that was published in December about our company unleashed a social media mob — not just on me, but also on many of you," Korey wrote in a Slack message to employees obtained by FOX Business. "In an attempt to protect the company, we announced something that had been planned for a bit further into the future: that Stuart [Haselden] would join as CEO and that I would move into a new role as Executive Chairman, intended as an active leadership role alongside Jen and Stuart. Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted in the media as me leaving Away, and has caused more confusion than clarity (both internally and externally)."

"So, let me clear that up: I am not leaving the company," Korey wrote, adding that she will be co-CEO along with Haselden.

Steph Korey attends the 2019 NRF Foundation Gala at Sheraton New York Times Square on Jan.13, 2019, in New York City. (Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

The Verge published a story titled "Emotional Baggage" in early December that accused Away of having a "toxic work environment" perpetuated in part by Korey. Examples included firing employees who were also in an LGBT private chat group about the workplace called "Hot Topics" and Korey saying in a Slack message that whoever was in charge of a failed task must be "brain dead."

"I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it," Korey said in a statement to CNBC in early December. "It was wrong, plain and simple. ... I am working to be better every day and I promise to keep at it for the sake of our employees, our customers and our company."

The Verge has published several stories about Away since "Emotional Baggage," including a story about employees at Away's Brooklyn monogramming center vomiting because of paint fumes.

"We hired lawyers from Clare Locke LLP, the country’s top defamation law firm, and they have identified deliberate lies and distortions in The Verge's reporting," Korey wrote in her message to employees Monday. "We will be making a decision about our legal options after The Verge responds fully to our demands for retractions and corrections."

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Libby Locke of Clare Locke shared the following statement with FOX Business about one of The Verge's stories.

"Like The Verge’s other reporting about Away, its story about conditions in the Brooklyn monogramming office and at stores is fundamentally false and misleading," Locke said. "Away promptly engaged a third-party environmental firm that confirmed the air in the Brooklyn office was safe. When heating and cooling systems needed repairs, Away promptly submitted repair tickets to the landlord and engaged technicians. The Verge’s attempt to trump up and distort these ordinary events is further evidence that The Verge is just not interested in reporting the truth about Away."

The Verge "disputes" Korey's characterization of its reporting.

"It’s disappointing that Away has decided to attack The Verge instead of making this moment about Steph Korey’s growth as a leader," a spokesperson for The Verge told FOX Business on Tuesday.

Clare Locke represented a University of Virginia administrator in a lawsuit over Rolling Stone's discredited story about a rape on campus. The two parties settled in April 2017.

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This story has been updated to correct Steph Korey's current title and add comment from The Verge.