Feb 7, 2021 - Axios on HBO

Ex-Parler CEO John Matze says he didn't want Trump deal

Ex-Parler CEO John Matze tells "Axios on HBO" that the social media company's negotiations last summer to bring President Trump onto the Twitter rival were a lose-lose proposition and never got beyond unsigned, non-binding term sheets.

What Matze says: "I didn't like the idea of working with Trump, because he might have bullied people inside the company to do what he wanted. But I was worried that if we didn't sign the deal, he might have been vengeful and told his followers to leave Parler."

Backstory: BuzzFeed News reported Friday that Matze and two Parler advisers met at Mar-a-Lago last June to discuss a deal whereby the Trump organization would receive a 40% stake in Parler in exchange for Trump making Parler his exclusive social media home.

  • Trump himself was not in attendance, but his campaign chief and campaign lawyer were there.

Matze did not mention the Mar-a-Lago meeting when interviewed Thursday by "Axios on HBO," for an episode airing Sunday. Instead, he said neither he nor other Parler executives had met with Trump or "anyone in the White House" about the former president creating a Parler account.

  • The Buzzfeed story does not contradict that statement, since it references negotiations with Trump "campaign" officials.

During a subsequent phone interview, Matze told Axios the Mar-a-Lago meeting was set up by Jeffrey Wernick, an early Parler investor and its eventual chief operating officer. He says it lasted a few hours and that he didn't sleep over at the private club in Florida where Trump now lives.

  • Matze adds he doesn't know if the first offer was made by Wernick or by Trump campaign officials.
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