April 19, 2024

It’s springtime in the United States, and the country’s social media landscape is budding with change. Lawmakers in the Senate are considering a bill that could ban TikTok, or force a divestment from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s Truth Social is becoming a public company this week. But there’s one man who’s wrapped up in all of it: Jeff Yass, the richest man in Pennsylvania.

The Philly billionaire holds a $21 billion stake in TikTok’s parent company, representing more than half of his net worth. His investment firm, Susquehanna International Group, was also the largest institutional shareholder of the company merging with Donald Trump’s social media company in December. The latest public filings reveal that, assuming he has not since sold any shares. Yass will have a $22 million stake in Trump Media when the merger finalizes on Tuesday.

Before betting billions on social media, Yass bet on horses. In the late 1980s, Yass went to horse tracks outside Chicago and predicted the exact order of seven horses in three races – but it wasn’t a lucky guess. A Ph.D. statistician who worked with NASA on the moon landing helped him devise an algorithm to predict the race. He won what was at the time the biggest payout from a horse track in American history: $760,000. Yass rarely leaves his bets to chance.

In the last few weeks, Yass and Donald Trump have allegedly become quite close. Trump noted that he raced over last minute to speak at an event Yass invited him to during a speech in Palm Beach, Florida in early March. The event was for Yass’s “Club for Growth,” a conservative Super PAC that has become one of TikTok’s largest defenders.

Yass has spent over $100 million funding right-wing campaigns in recent years, according to a ProPublica investigation. He has given millions to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who has indicated he would block the TikTok ban in the Senate. This relatively unknown billionaire, who has a huge chunk of his wealth tied up in TikTok, has a large influence over several politicians.

Yass was considered a “Never Trumper” in 2016 and told the Wall Street Journal two years ago he was trying to discourage a 2024 Trump presidential run. Now, he’s had a change of heart, right as Trump is easing his hostility toward TikTok. The former President now defends TikTok’s existence in the United States, after signing an executive order to ban the app in 2020.

Trump denies taking donations from Yass, though it’s unclear if investments in his media company are part of this denial. Sources tell the New York Times that Trump is expecting a “large donation” from the billionaire very soon. He’s even considering giving Yass a cabinet position if elected, according to Bloomberg.

Support from the richest man in Pennsylvania could not come soon enough for Trump. He’s expected to obtain a bond for $175 million, reduced from $545 million, to pay a New York court this month, and the former president has been reportedly been struggling to obtain a loan.

The TikTok ban seems unlikely to go into law at this point. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has shown no urgency in bringing the bill to the floor, and Rand Paul has previously blocked similar legislation. Also, if ByteDance is forced to divest from TikTok, Trump’s former treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin is putting a band together to purchase it. Lastly, Biden’s opposition to TikTok is a losing issue with younger voters. It seems more likely that his fellow Democrats in the Senate wouldn’t allow him to sign this into law anyway.

Yass’s influence in American politics is large, though very few U.S. citizens know his name. He’s both a Republican megadonor and a major social media investor. His actions have outsized importance, and right now, he seems to be using a relationship with Trump and Truth Social to protect his investment in TikTok. In social media, like in horse racing, Yass doesn’t leave his bets to chance.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *