Vivek Ramaswamy

MONEY & BUSINESS: Bill Ackman, Peter Thiel back investment firm taking on ‘woke’ capitalism

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Pershing Square Capital boss Bill Ackman and tech billionaire Peter Thiel are among the investors backing an upstart fund that’s aiming to lead a movement against politically influenced “stakeholder capitalism.”

Dubbed Strive Asset Management, the fund was founded by pharmaceutical investor Vivek Ramaswamy – who also authored a best-selling book called “Woke, Inc.” that published last year.

The Ohio-based firm has raised more than $20 million from investors with a mandate to pursue an asset management strategy focused “on excellence over politics.”

Americans “want iconic American brands like Disney, Coca-Cola and Exxon, and US tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google to deliver high-quality products that improve our lives, not controversial political ideologies that divide us,” Ramaswamy said in a statement.

Ramaswamy launched the fund during a period of mounting scrutiny of corporations that opt to take positions during political debates.

Vivek Ramaswamy is the author of a bestseller titled “Woke, Inc.”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The most notable example occurred within the last few weeks, when Disney publicly slammed Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law after facing immense pressure from progressive-minded workers.

Disney’s move triggered a public dispute with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who led an effort to revoke the company’s special tax status within the state.

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel invested in Strive both personally and through his Founders Fund.
Getty Images

Ramaswamy said his firm will attempt to directly compete with asset management giants such as BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street.

“The Big 3 asset managers have fueled this polarizing new trend in corporate America, and that’s why we’re going to compete with them head-on to refocus American companies on the shared pursuit of excellence over politics,” Ramaswamy added.

Representatives for BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bill Ackman
Vivek Ramaswamy’s firm has raised more than $20 million from Ackman (pictured) and others.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink defended “stakeholder capitalism” from criticism in his annual letter to CEOs published in January – arguing the concept was “not about politics” or “woke” but instead a necessity for long-term financial success.

 “It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper,” Fink said in his letter. “This is the power of capitalism.”

Fink added that businesses shouldn’t cave to political pressure when considering policies despite efforts by activists to “hijack your brand to advance their own agendas.”

Aside from Ackman and Thiel, Strive Asset Management secured funding from larger venture capital firms such as the Founders Fund — where Thiel is a partner — and Flex Capital as well as from other individual investors such as Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale.

Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, has increasingly focused on politics in recent years. The billionaire is exiting Facebook parent Meta’s board and is reportedly devoting his time to backing Republican candidates ahead of the 2022 midterms.



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