food drama

Did the Fishwife Team Break Up?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

The Fishwives are now the Fishdivorcées. According to Business Insider, Becca Millstein and Caroline Goldfarb, the co-founders of buzzy tinned-fish company Fishwife, have fallen out. The news site reports that Goldfarb was sued last summer by the company she helped found for refusing to hand over access to several of the company’s online accounts, including its website and email.

While no one noticed at the time, people did after this week’s episode of Shark Tank, in which Millstein appeared solo. She successfully secured a $350,000 investment from Lori Greiner and Candice Nelson, but the writer Casey Lewis wondered, “Wasn’t there another woman involved here?” She made a TikTok that went mildly viral, and now the tinned-fish girls’ business is being aired out.

If none of these words mean anything to you, allow me to explain.

What is Fishwife?

If you’ve ever heard “hot girls eat tinned fish,” it’s because of Fishwife. Goldfarb was the first person to say, “Tinned fish is the ultimate hot-girl food,” and the rest was history. The eye-catching packages of sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and other preserved swimmers have become a staple for people who shop at Big Night and thirst after Molly Baz’s yellow kitchen.

Launched in 2020 by Millstein and Goldfarb, the company quickly garnered media attention, with write-ups in Vogue and the New York Times within six months of its launch. Soon, the colorful tins were cropping up on Instagram and wherever you could buy fancy sundries.

Do I know these girls?

If Goldfarb’s name sounds familiar, you might know her from her Instagram page, @officialseanpenn, where she posts memes about celebrities. The 33-year-old used to host a podcast called Glowing Up with comedian Esther Povitsky and is now a writer for The Sex Lives of College Girls. You may also know her as the woman who wrote that viral horny press release for a Meghan Trainor song. This is all to say, she’s a woman about the internet.

Millstein, on the other hand, is really about her business. Per LinkedIn, the 29-year-old worked in the music industry before starting Fishwife. Since then, she has been committed solely to tinned fish.

Okay, so what was the lawsuit about?

In July 2023, Fishwife sued both Goldfarb and her father for breach of contract, civil theft, and cybersquatting, among other things. The company, filing under the name Shrimp Girls, claimed that Fishwife’s growth occurred “not because of Caroline Goldfarb’s efforts, but in spite of them.” The suit alleges that Goldfarb stopped working for the company in May 2021, and before that she was only working for a few hours a week in comparison to Millstein’s “more than 90 hours per week.”

The real drama came when Goldfarb accepted an offer for an 8.75 percent stake in the company. Two weeks after agreeing, Goldfarb’s attorney sent a letter asking for that to be upped to 35 percent, a request which the company’s suit calls “patently absurd.” The company claimed that by refusing to sign documents that would finalize her 8.75 percent interest in the company, she had “effectively held Fishwife hostage.” The suit claimed that Goldfarb was preventing the company from raising money and that she was “substantially hampering its ability to find new investors and secure outside funds.”

Then there was also this whole thing with Goldfarb and Fishwife’s online accounts. Per the filing, Goldfarb and her father had control of the company’s Google administrative account and its domain account, a.k.a. all of the company’s email accounts, storage, and website. Not only did the Goldfarbs have control over these accounts, but they held “a higher level of administrative access” than anyone else, meaning they had “ultimate control.” (For what it’s worth, I could not figure out how Mr. Goldfarb got involved in all this. The suit does not detail how he came into possession of the accounts, nor if he had anything to do with the company prior to his daughter’s exit.)

Millstein and Fishwife were seeking damages from the Goldfarbs for breach of contract, the return of their accounts, and an acknowledgment of Caroline’s 8.75 percent stake. According to Business Insider, the suit was quietly settled less than a month after it was filed.

Is anything else fishy about this?

To answer the question, I can’t tell. Here are some things I’ve noticed and you can decide whether or not you think they’re weird. Goldfarb, who has apparently not worked for the company in over two years, posted about Millstein’s solo appearance on Shark Tank on her Instagram. Prior to that, she had only posted about the brand once in the past year, sharing a photo of some tins alongside a plate of latkes in December. Is that weird?

Back in 2022, Millstein was named to Forbes’s “30 Under 30” list. Obviously, she posted about it on Instagram. In her caption, she did not name Goldfarb as one of her “brilliant Fishwife team members,” but the post was also edited nine weeks ago. In a LinkedIn post celebrating the achievement, Goldfarb was named. I don’t know! Maybe I’m just tacking strings to a corkboard for no reason. I need to munch on some $10 sardines and have a think.

Did the Fishwife Team Break Up?