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HomeReviewsVivek Ramaswamy says Buzzfeed should take 'large-scale' layoffs

Vivek Ramaswamy says Buzzfeed should take 'large-scale' layoffs

Vivek Ramaswamy, after dropping out of the Republican presidential primary race, has turned his attention to shaking up media company BuzzFeed — and he's pushing for a rightward turn for the company.

In a filing last week, Ramaswamy revealed that he amassed a 7.7% stake in BuzzFeed. In a May 27 letter to BuzzFeed's board of directors, he said he now holds an 8.37% stake in the company “and I continue to increase my position.”

“BuzzFeed has lost its way,” he wrote in the letter. “I own your shares because I believe BuzzFeed can still become a more valuable company than at its initial listing, but that requires a major shift in strategy.”

Among other things, Ramaswamy recommended that BuzzFeed hire talent from “across the political and cultural spectrum” including right-wing commentators such as Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson and Aaron Rodgers. In the 2,344-word letter, Ramaswamy also said that BuzzFeed should “retain only the resources necessary to create and monetize BuzzFeed's highest-value content,” which “will almost certainly require large-scale reductions of the number of employees”.

Ramaswamy – who has called the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol an “inside job” facilitated by federal law enforcement and, among other things, promoted the outlandish conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, were in some way related to President Biden and that the Super Bowl was being rigged – said BuzzFeed should “differentiate itself from competitors by openly admitting your past journalistic failures and redefine the BuzzFeed brand around the pursuit of truth.” As alleged examples of “journalistic failures,” he cited reports from BuzzFeed News (which the company shut down last year) such as the Steele Dossier, “an unverified, unverified opposition research document that was full of false information and the perversions that the abusers brought out. The Mueller investigation divided our country for years.”

In the letter, Ramaswamy said he has identified “three high-profile directors with strong business records in new media who have expressed interest in joining your board to help navigate this strategic pivot.” and that he “appeals to[d] You add these directors to your board by July 15.” He did not identify them.

In an email response to Ramaswamy received from Variety, BuzzFeed chairman and CEO Jonah Peretti said: “Based on your letter, you have some fundamental misunderstandings about our business drivers, our audience's values, and the company's mission. I'm highly skeptical that it makes business sense to turn BuzzFeed into a creative platform for inflammatory political pundits. And we're definitely not going to apologize for our Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.”

Peretti continued, “That said, I welcome outside perspectives from shareholders and am open to hearing more from you.”

Ramaswamy posted his full letter on X. He argued that “time is of the essence” for BuzzFeed to act because the company “faces a non-zero risk of bankruptcy in December 2024” given that it has more than $100 million in outstanding debt and $61.5 million in cash, while posting a $26 million loss in the first quarter of 2024 on a declining revenue base.

One of the biggest problems with BuzzFeed is the lack of a brand identity, according to Ramaswamy. “Today BuzzFeed is a haphazard amalgamation of media properties with no distinct brand or strategy tying them together,” he wrote. Ramaswamy said that BuzzFeed should hire “top content creators” for lower base salaries, giving them “tremendous in what they generate.”

“This winning talent model is a great way for BuzzFeed to scale rapidly without massive CapEx,” he wrote. “Go for talent across the political and cultural spectrum. Be brave. Don't be afraid to challenge your audience. From Candace Owens to Destiny, Tucker Carlson to Bill Maher, Aaron Rodgers to Charles Barkley, no talent should be off limits for platform, hire or hire.” Ramaswamy added, “The good news is that you already have a template for how to take advantage of this opportunity: 'First We Feast' is an unqualified success, with the hit 'Hot Ones' generating millions of views per episode, not to mention cultural significance.”

After BuzzFeed's stock price soared last week on the disclosure of Ramaswamy's stake ownership of NBCUniversal sold $10.1 million of the company's stock, reducing its holdings from 15% to 5.68% of outstanding shares. By early 2023, NBCU had sold $28.3 million in BuzzFeed stock.

Ramaswamy, who amassed his fortune in finance and the pharmaceutical industries, in January 2024 dropped out of the 2024 GOP presidential race and endorsed Donald Trump, saying he would support Trump even if the former president was convicted of crimes.

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