May 15, 2024 - Technology

Billionaire Frank McCourt assembles "people's bid" to buy TikTok

Illustration of an exclamation point in the style of the TikTok logo.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Frank McCourt, the former LA Dodgers owner, announced Wednesday morning that he's putting together a "people's bid" to buy TikTok from China's ByteDance.

Why it matters: McCourt is a vocal critic of tech and social media, having stepped down as CEO of his eponymous investment firm to launch an effort that would give users more control and ownership of their personal data.

  • Unlike other potential bidders, McCourt says he doesn't want TikTok's algorithm.
  • News of the effort was first reported by Semafor.

Zoom in: McCourt doesn't have enough cash to buy TikTok on his own, so he's retained Guggenheim Securities to effectively crowdfund via both institutions and individuals.

  • Among those endorsing his effort is Tim Berners-Lee, the person credited with inventing the World Wide Web.

The big picture: ByteDance is subject to a new U.S. law requiring it to divest TikTok on national security grounds, or else risk the app being banned.

  • It's filed a legal challenge, and big questions remain about whether the Chinese government would even allow ByteDance to sell TikTok (particularly with its algorithm included).
  • "I've been involved in a lot of large deals, and things take different twists and turns," McCourt tells Axios. "There's a distinct possibility that ByteDance will be willing to sell TikTok U.S. without the algorithm, which we don't want, so we want all our ducks lined up."

The bottom line: TikTok has several willing buyers. It just doesn't yet have a willing seller.

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