Billionaire Frank McCourt Planning Bid To Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Operations

Frank McCourt, the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, this week announced he is putting together a bid to buy the popular social media platform TikTok as the company’s future in the U.S. remains uncertain after President Joe Biden signed a bill that could get it banned nationwide.

In a statement released Wednesday, McCourt announced that his Project Liberty organization is building a consortium to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations in consultation with global investment bank Guggenheim Partners and law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

“We see this potential acquisition as an incredible opportunity to catalyze an alternative to the current tech model that has colonized the internet,” McCourt, a longtime critic of big tech, said.

“By bringing leading academics, technologists, behavioral scientists, psychologists and economic experts together with community partners, parents and citizens, we believe we can preserve — and enhance — the TikTok experience by giving individuals and creators on the platform the value and control they deserve regarding who has access to their data and how it is used,” he continued.

Leading technologists, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known for founding the World Wide Web, support the effort, the press release said.

ByteDance last month signaled it doesn’t have plans to sell TikTok.

McCourt, a real estate mogul, first spoke about his plans to Semafor’s Ben Smith on Tuesday, where he explained he wants to reshape TikTok to be “a new and better version of the internet where individuals are respected and they own and control their identity and their data.”

“It connects 170 million people and allows them to be creative and build things and enjoy things and do things,” he added. “On the other hand, they don’t get to really share in the value that’s created, and their data is scraped and stolen and shipped to China.”

Under his vision, McCourt told Smith, TikTok users’ accounts would move to software that works with Project Liberty’s Decentralized Social Networking Protocol, which would, in turn, give users more control over their personal data.

McCourt, who is worth about $1.4 billion, according to Forbes, told Semafor he will seek funding from foundations, endowments, and pension funds, but also from the public to finance the bid. It’s unclear how much TikTok could be sold for.

McCourt has been a vocal critic of big tech and their user data practices for years.

Project Liberty, founded by McCourt, aims to create a more equitable internet and promote the transition to an open data economy.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a foreign aid package approved by Congress. The package included a provision forcing the Chinese parent company of TikTok, ByteDance, to sell its stake in the platform within a year or risk a nationwide ban on the social media site.

A group of eight TikTok creators on Tuesday sued the U.S. government over the legislation, saying it violates their First Amendment rights. Their lawsuit is funded by TikTok, which, together with ByteDance, has also taken legal action against the federal government, claiming the bill is “unconstitutional.”

McCourt is not alone in wanting to purchase the social media site. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin previously told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” he was also planning to mount a bid to buy TikTok. “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary has also expressed interest in acquiring the popular platform.

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