Vivek Ramaswamy, Far-Right Politician And Investor, Buys 7.7% Stake In BuzzFeed

Vivek Ramaswamy, who unsuccessfully mounted a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, has purchased a 7.7% stake in BuzzFeed, a regulatory filing revealed Tuesday.

The purchase raised questions about Ramaswamy’s intent. The filing indicated he intended to be an activist investor, pursuing discussions with management and BuzzFeed’s board of directors about strategy and even changes to ownership of the company. BuzzFeed is the parent company of HuffPost, which it acquired in 2021. According to the filing, Ramaswamy bought the shares for just under $4 million in total.

The stock purchase made Ramaswamy a significant BuzzFeed shareholder. BuzzFeed shares spiked more than 50% on Wednesday before the market opened. Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti owns a controlling stake in the company.

As a Republican candidate for office, Ramaswamy was a hard-right nationalist, criticizing cancel culture — or “cultural totalitarianism,” as he called it — and saying “new secular religions like COVID-ism, climate-ism and gender ideology” had driven a “national identity crisis.”

Ramaswamy dropped out of the presidential contest and endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection bid in January after finishing fourth in the Republican caucuses in Iowa. Last week, Ramaswamy was among the Republican politicians showing solidarity with Trump by attending his hush money criminal trial in New York City.

Ramaswamy’s political career has featured both an oppositional stance toward mainstream media and an embrace of far-right talking points.

Earlier this year, he posted on social media a bulleted list of news topics — including “Charlottesville” and “‘Peaceful’ BLM riots” — with commentary saying the media employed “ad nauseam and flagrant lies.” (The 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was deadly, while the vastmajority of Black Lives Matter rallies have indeed been peaceful.)

In December last year, he said that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress “does look like it was an inside job” and vowed to pardon “all peaceful Jan. 6 protesters” if elected. He also vowed to eliminate several federal agencies and pursue mass layoffs of government workers.

He has referred to the Great Replacement Theory — the racist conspiracy theory that Democrats are “replacing” white Americans with non-white migrants, which has been cited by several mass shooters — as “a basic statement of the Democratic party’s platform.”

He touted the endorsement of former Iowa Rep. Steve King, who once defended white supremacy in an interview, saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” (King has a lengthy history of espousing racist talking points and amplifying white supremacists and neo-Nazis.)

Ramaswamy has described transgender people as “mentally deranged” and has said the following about same-sex marriage rights: “I don’t think that somebody who’s religious should be forced to officiate a wedding that they disagree with.”

And he has also supported six-week abortion bans, calling Iowa’s abortion ban passed last year “an historic occasion.”

Ramaswamy began his professional life in hedge funds and then made a fortune as CEO of Roivant Sciences, a biotech company perhaps best known for the development of the Alzheimer’s drug Intepirdine, out of Roivant’s subsidiary, Axovant. Axovant’s value tanked after Intepirdine, much hyped by Ramaswamy, failed a clinical trial. Despite the drug’s “spectacular failure,” two well-timed payouts ensured Ramaswamy “made a fortune anyway,” The New York Times reported in 2023.

Forbes reported last year that Ramaswamy’s 10% stake in Roivant was then worth $600 million and that he had taken $260 million from the company over the years in the form of salary, bonuses and capital gains. He sold $33 million worth of Roivant stock in January of this year, reportedly in part to help fund his presidential campaign.

Separately, Ramaswamy has an “anti-woke” asset management firm, Strive Asset Management, that has received support from the likes of Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman. Ramaswamy has criticized so-called “environmental, social and governance” investing, or “ESG,” and has also called out large investment firms for engagement in politics.

However, emails obtained by the watchdog group Documented last year revealed deep engagement by Ramaswamy’s firm with Republican officials, part of an informal lobbying effort against large firms like BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard. Ramaswamy has separately called for greater oil and natural gas production in the United States, calling it “the post-ESG mandate.”

A representative for Ramaswamy responded to HuffPost’s questions about the stock purchase with a statement on his behalf: “Stay tuned.”

Lizzie Grams, a BuzzFeed spokesperson, told HuffPost on Wednesday evening, “BuzzFeed is purposely structured to protect its editorial integrity. We are always open to hearing ideas from our shareholders.”

BuzzFeed has struggled financially since it went public in 2021 via a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Since then, the company has shut down the award-winning BuzzFeed News, sold Complex, the culture-oriented media network, and undergone multiplerounds of layoffs. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed announced a 1-for-4 reverse stock split, a move intended to ensure individual share prices remained above $1.

In Tuesday’s filing, Ramaswamy said he would “seek to engage in a dialogue” with BuzzFeed’s board of directors and management “about numerous operational and strategic opportunities to maximize shareholder value, including a shift in the company’s strategy.”

Such a shift could include speaking with “potential acquirers,” the filing said, in addition to potential changes in management, corporate structure, dividend policy and strategy.

Ramaswamy purchased the stock with personal funds beginning in March and leading up to Tuesday, according to the filing. Ramaswamy said he pursued the investment because he believed the stock was “undervalued and represent[s] an attractive investment opportunity.”

On Friday, BuzzFeed announced that Peretti would shift to a majority stock-based compensation package, lowering his cash compensation from $325,000 to $115,000 and replacing that with awarded options to purchase 414,000 shares of the company’s Class A common stock. In a filing, BuzzFeed said the new cash compensation of $115,000 “approximates the median employee compensation for BuzzFeed and its peers.” Other executives at the company also received stock options.

Peretti said in a statement Friday that the new compensation and incentive structure “reflects our new organizational model as a leaner, faster, scrappier tech-first company.”