Vivek Ramaswamy acquires 7.7% activist stake in BuzzFeed

<span>Vivek Ramaswamy speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on 24 February 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP</span>
Vivek Ramaswamy speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on 24 February 2024.Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Vivek Ramaswamy, the former Republican presidential candidate who has regularly attacked the media and made claims that climate change is a “hoax”, has acquired a large stake in BuzzFeed in order to “shift its strategy”.

The 7.7% stake in the media company that helped pioneer viral social media content and moved into digital news is worth more than $2.7m, according to a filing with the SEC, which also states Ramaswamy intends to engage with BuzzFeed’s board of directors as an activist investor.

“The reporting person will seek to engage in a dialogue with the issuer’s board of directors (the “board”) and/or management about numerous operational and strategic opportunities to maximize shareholder value, including a shift in the company’s strategy,” the SEC filing states.

Ramaswamy dropped out of the Republican presidential primary after the Iowa caucuses this year and endorsed Donald Trump. He has decried “fake news”, criticized reporters claiming reporting of links between Trump and Russia was a “hoax”, and suggested that the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol was an “inside job”.

BuzzFeed has faced dramatic changes since its news division was shut down by its CEO, Jonah Peretti, in April 2023, citing an inability to turn a profit. 15% of the staff – 180 people – were laid off, as Peretti said artificial intelligence would become part of BuzzFeed’s core business.

“I see a tremendous opportunity in front of us to build the defining media company for the AI era,” said Peretti in a letter to shareholders in April 2024.

BuzzFeed’s direction has since focused on “tech-led revenue streams”, including branded quizzes, Instagram takeovers, sponsored content and content licensing, rather than the news or listicles that made the brand famous.

Earlier this year in February 2024, BuzzFeed sold Complex to the livestream shopping platform NTWRK for $108.6m plus $5.7m for office and severance costs. 16% of BuzzFeed’s remaining staff was laid off – about 160 people – as part of the restructuring.

Ramaswamy has yet to comment on the acquisition aside from telling CNBC to “stay tuned”.

In a statement, a BuzzFeed spokesperson said: “BuzzFeed is purposely structured to protect its editorial integrity. We are always open to hearing ideas from our shareholders.”