Vivek Ramaswamy's stake in BuzzFeed sends shares up 20%, as he seeks strategic 'shift'

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, listens as former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a Trump rally in advance of the New Hampshire primary election, in Laconia, New Hampshire, Jan. 22, 2024.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Former GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has an 8% stake in BuzzFeed and is seeking to effect a “shift” in the media firm’s strategy, the investor said Tuesday in a regulatory filing.

“Stay tuned,” Ramaswamy told CNBC via a spokesperson. He indicated in the filing that he would seek to discuss with BuzzFeed’s management every aspect of the company’s operations, up to and including an acquisition by a third party.

BuzzFeed shares opened up 55% on the news. Shares pared back gains and were up about 20% as of 10:25 a.m. ET. The stock closed Tuesday at $2.50.

BuzzFeed did not respond to a request for comment. The media outlet went public via a special purpose acquisition company in an ill-received 2021 debut. Shares have fallen 94% since then. CEO Jonah Peretti told CNBC in a prior interview that his job was to “set us up with a better future.”

Ramaswamy’s involvement raises questions about BuzzFeed’s direction. His Strive Asset Management has pushed companies to stay out of “woke” politics and opposed the widespread adoption of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, principles.

Companies should “do whatever allows them to be most successful over the long run without regard to political, social, cultural or environmental agendas,” Ramaswamy told CNBC in a 2023 interview.

The once-viral company has been hit hard by changing news habits. It shuttered its Pulitzer Prize-winning news division in 2023, laying off 15% of its staff at the time. BuzzFeed was dependent on social-media and search traffic to drive visitors to its properties, and as those platforms have changed or deprioritized news BuzzFeed’s bottom line has also been affected.

Ramaswamy made his fortune via Strive and his drug development firm Roivant Sciences. He is also the author of “Woke, Inc.,” in which he decried the social justice movement sweeping the country in 2020 and 2021 as a “scam.”

Ramaswamy has remained close to the Mar-a-Lago circuit after throwing his support behind former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee. It’s unlikely, however, that he will be Trump’s vice-presidential pick, given that several GOP operatives and donors have expressed deep opposition.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is a minority investor in BuzzFeed.

— CNBC’s Alex Sherman and Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.

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