Amid Looming US Ban, TikTok Emerges As Hot Commodity For Entrepreneurs Eyeing Takeover

Amid Looming US Ban, TikTok Emerges As Hot Commodity For Entrepreneurs Eyeing Takeover
In this photo illustration, the TikTok app logo is displayed on an iPhone | Getty Images | Photo by Dan Kitwood

There is a strong chance that the US government will pass a legislation that would force China’s ByteDance to divest itself from TikTok or risk being banned in the US entirely. President Joe Biden has shown support for the legislation saying that he would sign it if it reaches his desk, reportedly for ‘national security’. While TikTok has turned to its users to save itself, several business tycoons are eyeing a takeover of the platform anticipating the legislation. This includes former Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and famed “Shark Tank” investor, Kevin O’Leary.

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Earlier, a Wall Street Journal report suggested that Kotick approached ByteDance executive, Zhang Yiming to express interest in buying the platform. Since the price of TikTok could be hundreds of billions of dollars, Kotick could look to forge partnerships with several billionaires. According to the Journal, Kotick could potentially involve OpenAI’s Sam Altman in the deal with plans to infuse TikTok with AI tech.



 

Meanwhile, Kevin O’Leary has become the latest to join the hype of buying TikTok. In an interview with “Fox & Friends”, O’Leary said that he wants to work with both Republicans and Democrats who vote for the bill that will oversee TikTok’s transition as he plans to take ownership over the next 18 months.

"If this order goes through, it's got to be sold. I'm going to put up my hand and say I'll buy it,” O’Leary Ventures Chairman and the "Shark Tank" star said in the interview. He also promised that he would transform TikTok into a new American company with all of its servers based on US soil. He further said he could guarantee that he would close all Chinese backdoors and make it safe for users, parents, businesses, and all.

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Members of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party have introduced a bill stipulating that ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, must divest TikTok or risk facing a ban in the US. President Biden has voiced his support for the bill. "If they pass it, I’ll sign it," he affirmed to reporters on Friday.

If the bill is passed by Congress, it would force TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, to sell its US TikTok operations to a non-Chinese company or face a nationwide ban on the app.

The bill would require ByteDance to fully divest within 180 days and also establish a process for the executive branch to ban applications in the future if they are deemed a security risk.

Since the bill gained strong bipartisan support, TikTok has been sending its users a special message urging them to contact their local lawmakers and "speak up now” before 170 million Americans are “stripped of their constitutional right to free expression."



 

ByteDance, which is not a publicly traded company, saw a 40% jump in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2023 from the year earlier, according to The Information. This means the company outpaced it's competitors like Meta.

The free speech concerns make the bill not a sure thing. Further, banning arguably the most popular app could be a problem for young people, whose vote is sought by both Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential Election.

Trump, who is seen as the potential Republican candidate, had historically opposed TikTok. However, Trump made a 180 turn recently over the idea of passing legislation to ban the app. Trump, who as the US President issued an executive order that did what the new bill proposes, changed course saying that he did not want to alienate young voters or help Meta, who would massively gain from the ban.

In an interview on CNBC, Trump said that he still considered TikTok a national security threat, but “there are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it.” He added that “there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad with TikTok” but he does not want Facebook to get bigger, a platform that he considers to be an enemy of the people who cheated him in the 2020 presidential elections.



 

Trump’s post was defended on X by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky who said, "If Congress bans TikTok, they will be acting just like the Chinese communists who have also banned TikTok . . . Why not just defend the first amendment?"

The post was shared by Elon Musk, who showed support by saying, "Trump's statement there is correct." This comes naturally as Musk has often expressed that Meta and Zuckerberg are his prime nemesis. 



 

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