New BuzzFeed Investor Vivek Ramaswamy Pressures Site For Changes

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Vivek Ramaswamy, who disclosed a big stake in BuzzFeed last week, sent a letter to the online publisher’s board of directors asking for major changes from staffing and focus to the board makeup as well as an apology for previous reporting. CEO Jonah Peretti declined the mea culpa but agreed to meet with the former Republican presidential primary candidate and Donald Trump surrogate, whom he said has some “fundamental misunderstandings” of the company’s business.

“Hey Vivek – Thanks for reaching out, nice to finally hear from you. I’m glad you think BuzzFeed is undervalued – I totally agree!,” he wrote.

BuzzFeed went public in 2021 after merging with a SPAC. Ramaswamy disclosed last week he’s acquired well over 8% of the company, making him one of the company’s largest individual shareholders.

“BuzzFeed needs a complete ground-up restructuring to right-size itself for the coming AI-driven changes to your business,” he wrote today in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “After getting back to startup size, invest further in places where BuzzFeed has a competitive advantage: creator-led audio & video content. Make BuzzFeed a bold, distinctive brand. Distinguish yourself from competitors by openly admitting your past journalistic failures and redefine BuzzFeed’s brand around the pursuit of truth,” he said, citing reports on the Steele dossier, Hunter Biden and Kevin Spacey.

He said the company should “Go for talents across the political and cultural spectrum. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to challenge your audiences. From Candace Owens to Destiny, Tucker Carlson to Bill Maher, Aaron Rodgers to Charles Barkley, no talent should be off-limits.”

“I’m very skeptical it makes business sense to turn BuzzFeed into a creator platform for inflammatory political pundits,” said Peretti in his response. “And we’re definitely not going to issue an apology for our Pulitzer prize-winning journalism.”

Ramaswamy’s letter was long, dissecting BuzzFeed’s financials and split into headers including The Worst Is Yet To Come, The Path Forward and the three phases he says would set up the company for success. Below is the opening.

To the Board of Directors of BuzzFeed,

BuzzFeed has lost its way. The company was a pioneer of the social internet, when referral traffic from Facebook seemed like it would never end. Legacy media companies and publishers believed that BuzzFeed had the secret sauce, so much so that they invested at sky-high valuations, copied the strategy, or both. Now, the social-internet model is dying or dead, and BuzzFeed is caught without a viable strategy.

I’m not alone in believing that. BuzzFeed went public in December 2021 at a valuation of $1.5 billion. When I started acquiring shares in your company as of January 30 this year, your share price had plummeted by over 94% from its initial listing price (and even more from its peak). At current prices, it’s still down by over 75% from listing. The public markets have spoken.

I am now your second-largest Class A shareholder with an 8.37% stake in your company, and I continue to increase my position. I own your stock because I believe BuzzFeed can still become a more valuable company than at its initial listing, but this requires a major shift in strategy.

There will be a temptation to reject what you are about to hear on partisan grounds because I was recently a Republican presidential candidate. It may not be a bad thing for you to hear from someone who shares views in common with >150 million Americans you’re largely missing today, but that’s beside the point. I’m writing from my experience as a serial founder who has created fast-growing startups in three different industries, the largest of which is a ~$9 billion NASDAQ-listed company that has returned additionally over $1.5 billion in cash to shareholders in its first 10 years of existence. Almost two decades after its founding, BuzzFeed is now effectively a startup with a paltry ~$100 million market capitalization. I view that as an opportunity.

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