Vivek Ramaswamy has a plan for BuzzFeed. There’s just one problem.

Vivek Ramaswamy has a plan for BuzzFeed. There’s just one problem.

Vivek Ramaswamy has been buying up shares of BuzzFeed.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

  • Investor and former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has laid out his plans for BuzzFeed.
  • He envisions turning the company into a Twitter/X-style user-generated content company.
  • But BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti controls the company, and doesn’t take Ramaswamy seriously. So what’s the endgame here?

Former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy announced last week he had been buying up shares in BuzzFeed. Which led to the obvious question: Why is Vivek Ramaswamy buying up shares in BuzzFeed?

Now we know. Sort of.

Ramaswamy says he has been buying up shares in BuzzFeed — he says he now owns 8.37% of the company’s “A” shares — because he has a plan to turn the struggling publisher around.

He’s laid it out in a letter to BuzzFeed’s board, but if you’re in a hurry I can summarize it for you: Ramaswamy wants BuzzFeed to pull an Elon Musk.

That is: He wants the company to cut costs to the bone, sell off some of its remaining assets, and transform itself into an X-style (that is, the company formerly known as Twitter since Musk bought it) video and audio platform — one that’s particularly appealing to commentators from “Tucker Carlson to Bill Maher,” according to his letter. He says the first step would be to elect three Ramaswamy-endorsed board members in July.

There’s more in the letter if you want to get into it. For instance, Ramaswamy spends a lot of time lambasting BuzzFeed for things the company has published in the past, like the Trump “dossier.” And he wants BuzzFeed to apologize, because “by both omission and commission, [it] repeatedly lied on issues of national importance, and so did the rest of the media,” he writes.

And if you wanted to take this stuff at face value, you might also note that some things Ramaswamy is pushing for sound like things BuzzFeed CEO and founder Jonah Peretti has said he wants to do — notably the idea of using the company as a creator-friendly platform.

But I don’t think that’s a particularly useful way to spend your time. Debating the merits of Ramaswamy’s plan seems like a cart-horse problem since Peretti has control of the company via a dual-class share structure, which gives him 64% of the company’s voting rights. That’s a structure specifically set up to give Peretti the ability to fend off takeovers or activist investors like Ramaswamy.

And Peretti does not seem like he’s treating Ramaswamy seriously. Here’s the relevant part of his response to Ramaswamy’s letter:

Based on your letter, you have some fundamental misunderstandings about the drivers of our business, the values of our audience, and the mission of the company. I’m very skeptical it makes business sense to turn BuzzFeed into a creator platform for inflammatory political pundits. And we’re definitely not going to issue an apology for our Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.

So unless Ramaswamy has another card to play, I still don’t understand what his end goal is here. (I have asked him for comment.)

I had previously speculated that this was a relatively cheap way for Ramaswamy to keep his name in the news, and to court an audience receptive to Donald Trump’s grievance politics. So maybe that’s still the main driver here. Though it’s hard to believe there’s deep interest from MAGA-land about the state of BuzzFeed.

Another option would be for Ramaswamy to play this out a while longer and watch BuzzFeed shares shoot up based on his saber-rattling. BuzzFeed shares closed at $3 today, up 20% from May 22, when Ramaswamy first disclosed his stake. If it keeps heading up, it might be tempting for Ramaswamy to sell off his shares, and then simply declare that he’s decided it’s cheaper to build his own platform.

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