Vivek Ramaswamy acquires stake in BuzzFeed; urges culture shift

Indian American Ramaswamy acquired stake in the company last week

Vivek Ramaswamy acquires stake in BuzzFeed; urges culture shift

Vivek Ramaswamy addresses the media outside of Manhattan Criminal Court on behalf of former President Donald Trump on May 14, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Pramod Thomas

FORMER US Republican presidential candidate has urged for BuzzFeed to overhaul its staff, concentrate on video content, and bring in new voices like former Fox News host Tucker Carlson after increasing his stake in the company to 8.3 per cent, reported Financial Times.

New York-based BuzzFeed is an internet media, news, and entertainment company with a focus on digital media.

The announcement last week of Indian American Ramaswamy’s significant stake in BuzzFeed caused a brief spike in its shares.

In a letter to BuzzFeed’s board on Tuesday (28), Ramaswamy criticised the company for decisions that he claimed have led to the public’s “distrust of the media,” highlighting the 2017 publication of a dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele.

The dossier, which explored Donald Trump’s Russian connections, was published without verification, and some parts were later discredited.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s campaign found no evidence of collusion with Moscow to influence the 2016 election.

Ramaswamy wrote, “Distinguish yourself from competitors by openly admitting your past journalistic failures and redefine BuzzFeed’s brand around the pursuit of truth,” urging the company to hire editorial talent “across the political and cultural spectrum.”

The biotech entrepreneur and anti-ESG (environmental, social, and governance) advocate expressed concern about the declining traffic from search engines and social media sites as consumers shift to AI tools like Google’s AI-generated search answers.

He recommended that BuzzFeed hire controversial, high-profile figures in audio and video, such as Carlson and talk show host Bill Maher, and to appoint three new directors to the board by July 15, the FT report said.

“No talent should be off-limits to platform, hire, or acqui-hire,” Ramaswamy said. “While your competitors focus on racial and gender diversity in the boardroom, you can become the first media company to expressly select for a diversity of viewpoints in your ranks.”

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti responded that Ramaswamy had “some fundamental misunderstandings about the drivers of our business, the values of our audience, and the mission of the company,” but agreed to schedule a meeting.

“I’m very skeptical it makes business sense to turn BuzzFeed into a creator platform for inflammatory political pundits,” Peretti wrote.

BuzzFeed’s stock has dropped from $40 per share in 2021 to under $3. The company shut down its news division in 2023 after social media companies like Facebook exited the news business, cutting off referral traffic.