Founder of biggest online dating agency dies in mystery fall

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's leading gay businessmen, the co-founder of the hugely successful dating web site, Gaydar, has been found dead, after apparently falling eight floors from his penthouse.

Scotland Yard said the death of Gary Frisch, 38, on Saturday was "unexplained" and were investigating to see whether it was an accident or suicide. There is no immediate suggestion of suspicious circumstances, although a post-mortem examination is due to take place today.

Mr Frisch was found by neighbours outside his apartment block, near the Thames in Wandsworth, south London, at lunchtime. He was confirmed as dead on arrival at hospital.

A South African by birth, Mr Frisch and his then personal partner, Henry Badenhorst, 37, founded Gaydar in 1999, two years after they moved to Britain. Although the couple split up last year, they remained business partners, with Mr Frisch chairman, and Mr Badenhorst the managing director, of their parent company, QSoft consulting.

Gaydar, which is believed to be earning more than £1m a year, now has more than four million subscribers and is one of Britain's busiest internet sites. A spokeswoman for QSoft declined to speculate on whether the separation between the two men was linked to Mr Frisch's death: "They remain business partners, although Mr Frisch now lives alone. We have no explanation for his death; he was in the office as usual on Friday and seemed perfectly normal to colleagues.''

In a statement, QSoft's directors said: "Gary was a highly regarded leader and colleague who cared first and foremost about the gay and lesbian community that we serve. He was an accomplished entrepreneur and a very generous man who also cared deeply about the people who worked for and with him. Gary's legacy as a co-founder of the Gaydar phenomenon is immense and it is one that we shall continue continue to celebrate.''

The company said an event planned for Thursday in London to mark the fifth birthday of GaydarRadio would still go ahead.

Gaydar is credited with moving gays away from the 'cruising' concept and onto the internet as a way of meeting partners. But it also gained notoriety when it was allegedly used by Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten to find male prostitutes.

Ivan Massow, the prominent gay businessman, said Gaydar had been very important for the gay community: "It created this space for people which was not there before. It turned what was a sleazy gay concept into something where city businessmen are quite happy to show you their Gaydar profile.'' He said he was "very, very sad" to hear of Mr Frisch's death.

Mr Frisch was said by other leaders of London's gay business community to be naturally shy and kept a low profile, both socially and in business. Despite the huge success of Gaydar, both he and his partner rarely gave interviews and until a couple of years ago preferred to be known only by their first names when dealing with the media.

Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner also paid tribute to Mr Frisch's influence on the gay community. He said: "Gary and Gaydar have had a huge impact on the gay culture. They have created an unprecedented online community and branched out into radio. Gary will be long remembered by the hundreds of thousands of gay people who benefited from the Gaydar phenomenon he helped create."

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