Mar 14, 2024 - Business

Steven Mnuchin wants to buy TikTok

(L-R) Elizabeth Burton, 77th US Secretary of Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin and Peter Orszag attend the 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton on May 02, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Steven Mnuchin at the 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference. Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Steven Mnuchin is recruiting an investor group to buy TikTok, the former Treasury Secretary said Thursday.

Why it matters: TikTok's future in the U.S. is in peril after the House passed a bipartisan bill that would force China-based ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban across the country.

Zoom in: "I think the legislation should pass and I think it should be sold," Mnuchin said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. "It's a great business and I'm going to put together a group to buy TikTok."

  • "This should be owned by U.S. businesses. There's no way that the Chinese would ever let a U.S. company own something like this in China," Mnuchin said.
  • Mnuchin told CNBC that he has spoken to a "bunch of people," but he declined to elaborate on who. He said that no investor would own more than 10% and that he would give existing investors the option to rollover their stakes.

The big picture: Some U.S. lawmakers have long been concerned about TikTok's ties to China and have advocated for changes.

  • In 2020, former President Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok. A sale to Microsoft fell through. Oracle signed an agreement with TikTok to protect U.S. data.
  • But the Oracle deal has not satisfied lawmakers' concerns. Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that TikTok "needs to be rebuilt in the U.S." He stressed that it is an issue for the app "to be on everybody's phone" due to concerns with China collecting data on Americans.

The intrigue: Former Activision CEO Bobby Kotick also has expressed interest in buying TikTok, the Wall Street Journal reported.

What they're saying: TikTok did not respond to Axios' request for comment about Mnuchin's plans for a bid.

  • In a video posted Wednesday responding to the House's vote, TikTok CEO Shou Chew noted a ban would strengthen its competitors and harm American creators and workers.
  • "We will not stop advocating for you, and we will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights to protect this amazing platform we have built for you," Chew said.

What's next: The bill now goes to the Senate.

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told Axios' Dan Primack that he is doubtful there will be a similar vote there.

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