BBC News: Is Truth Social planning a financial bailout for Trump?

BBC News: Is Truth Social planning a financial bailout for Trump?
  • By Natalie Sherman
  • Business reporter, New York

Image source, Getty Images

The share price of Donald Trump’s media company has fallen from last week’s high when it officially listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

But it is still worth more than $7bn (£5.6bn) at current prices – an astonishing sum given the business behind it.

So what is the Truth Social platform, who owns it, how many users does it have, and how much money does it make? And is it the answer to Mr Trump’s spiralling legal bills?

Trump Media & Technology Group was founded in 2021 after Mr Trump lost the presidential election and was temporarily booted from major social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, which accused him of inciting violence.

The idea was pitched to him by two men, former contestants on his reality TV show, The Apprentice, who saw an opportunity to create an alternative to the mainstream social media sites.

In 2022 Trump Media launched its first – and to date only – product for the public: the social media platform Truth Social.

Much of Truth Social’s functionality is identical to X. Users are able to post ‘truths’ or ‘retruths’ as well as send direct messages. Adverts, meanwhile, are called ‘sponsored truths’.

How many users does it have?

Trump Media claims about 9m Truth Social accounts have been created since its start.

It does not disclose how many users it has, but research firm SimilarWeb estimates that Truth Social had 5m monthly website visits in February this year.

By comparison, TikTok received more than 2bn visits, while Facebook had more than 3bn. X had 104m visits in February, SimilarWeb reported.

Mr Trump has roughly 7m followers on Truth Social, far fewer than the 87m he has on X. The former president’s X account was reinstated towards the end of 2022, but he has only posted once since then.

How much money does it make?

Trump Media lost nearly $60m in 2023, while bringing in only about $4m in revenue from advertising, according to its latest financial update, which also warned of “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a business.

The report was another reminder of the considerable disconnect between the finances of the company and its stock price, which puts its value at around $7bn.

As a gauge, in 2013, when Twitter listed on the stock market, it reported $660m in revenue and had a market value of roughly $24bn.

By 2021, the year before Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44bn, that figure had grown to more than $5bn.

What does Trump do for the company?

Mr Trump’s relationship with the firm is a bit like the licensing deals that he used in his property empire, in which he signed over his name for the promotion of a business run primarily by others.

In this case, Mr Trump has also agreed to post non-political messages first on Truth Social.

The other difference is that this deal did not yield a stream of automatic licensing fees – instead, Mr Trump was paid by being given shares in the new start-up.

So who owns it?

Trump Media, which is led by former Republican congressman Devin Nunes, was originally a private company, and Mr Trump owned 90% of it.

It went public in March 2024 via what is known as a SPAC – basically, it was acquired by a company whose shares were already trading publicly on the stock market, in this case, Digital World Acquisition Corp.

Mr Trump now owns about 57% of shares in the combined firm, which was renamed Trump Media and trades under the DJT ticker – Mr Trump’s initials.

Image source, Getty Images

The next biggest owner of TMTG is the Kuwaiti-headquartered investment firm ARC Global Investments, which has a 6.9% stake, according to Trump Media filings with financial regulators.

The former Apprentice contestants also have a sizable stakes, though those holdings are currently subject to legal fights.

Overall, insiders own about 70% of the stock.

Who else owns the stock?

When Trump Media announced its plans to go public in 2021, the news prompted small-time investors to snap up shares of Digital World, helping to pump up its price and drawing comparisons to pandemic-era meme stocks.

At the end of 2023, big financial firms owned only about 5% of Digital World stock, far less than is typical, implying everyday investors had the bulk of the rest.

With the merger complete, those individuals now also own a significant chunk of Trump Media, though just how much is not known exactly.

Conversations in online forums suggest at least some of those shareholders see their stock purchase as a bet on Mr Trump and a way to support him as his legal troubles, and the bills that accompany them, pile up.

Mr Trump has been ordered to pay more than $350m in damages in a civil fraud case, with interest charges potentially adding another $100m.

So will this solve Donald Trump’s financial problems?

After the merger was completed, Mr Trump saw his net worth more than double to over $5bn overnight, according to Forbes.

Mr Trump is barred from selling his roughly 78m shares for six months, unless the company decides to grant him a waiver.

But he stands to earn a windfall should he decide to cash in – even if the price drops sharply, as many analysts predict.

Shares in Digital World, now Trump Media, have swung wildly since 2021 and are expected to continue to do so.

They popped to more than $70 apiece when Trump Media formally debuted on 26 March.

They have since fallen and are trading around $50 apiece, which makes Mr Trump’s stake worth $4.1bn.

But that is about where they were the day before the launch and three times what Digital World shares were worth at the start of 2024.

Even if they were to fall to $1 apiece in six months, Mr Trump could still raise more than $78m by selling.

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