Business

Big Republican donor Jeff Yass owned stock in merger partner Trump Media

Jeff Yass, the billionaire Wall Street financier and Republican megadonor who is a major investor in TikTok's parent company, was also the largest institutional shareholder in the shell company that recently merged with the former president's social media company Donald J. Trump.

A December regulatory filing showed that Mr. Yass's trading company, Susquehanna International Group, owned about 2% of Digital World Acquisition Corp., which merged with Trump Media & Technology Group on Friday. That stake, of about 605,000 shares, was worth about $22 million based on the latest closing price of Digital World stock.

It's unclear whether Susquehanna still holds these shares, because large investors only disclose their holdings to regulators periodically. But if it retains its stake, Mr. Yass's company would become one of Trump Media's largest institutional shareholders when it begins trading this week after the merger.

Shares of Digital World have surged about 140% this year as the merger with the parent company of Truth Social, Mr. Trump's social media platform, moved closer and Mr. Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president. presidency.

“Susquehanna is a market maker and has no economic interest in Trump Media,” the company said in a statement. “The company’s long position is offset by similarly sized short positions.”

Regulatory filings show the company used compensating securities to try to minimize its gains or losses on the stocks.

The company's statement did not say whether the company still has a stake in Digital World, or the relationship between Mr. Yass and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Yass has been in the news recently for several reasons. A major contributor to Republican candidates and political action committees that support libertarian and conservative causes, including the Club for Growth, Mr. Yass' company is also a significant shareholder in ByteDance, TikTok's parent company. American investment firms Susquehanna, BlackRock and General Atlantic, among others, own 60% of ByteDance.

This month, the House passed a bill aimed at forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, the Chinese-controlled social media company.

THE Club for Growth sought to pressure congressional Republicans to oppose any attempt to ban TikTok if it was still controlled by China, and Mr. Yass helped the conservative organization fund that effort. (The Growth Club had opposed Mr. Trump's re-election campaign, but seems to have reconciled with him.)

Mr. Trump had supported banning TikTok in the United States, but recently reversed his position. A few weeks ago, he admitted to having a brief meeting with Mr. Yass — identified in a 2022 Wall Street Journal column as a “never Trumper” – but said the two never discussed TikTok.

A person close to Mr. Trump's campaign said Mr. Yass was expected to make a large donation to a group supporting the former president's political campaign. Mr. Yass said through a spokesman that he had never given to Mr. Trump and had no plans to do so.

Susquehanna, which facilitates trades in thousands of stocks using mathematical models, isn't the only company that can make money on Digital World. In February, Digital World revealed that it had raised $50 million from a group of institutional investors to cover merger-related expenses. Investors lent the company money that can be converted into shares. Investors in the transaction have not yet been disclosed.

In total, hedge funds and trading firms owned about 5% of Digital World's 30 million outstanding shares at the end of last year. The vast majority of Digital World's roughly 400,000 shareholders are individual investors, many of whom are supporters of Mr. Trump.

The surge in Digital World's stock price this year has driven up the value of Mr. Trump's 79 million-share stake in Trump Media by billions of dollars. Mr. Trump is also being issued a class of stock that will give him at least 55% voting rights on all shareholder actions.

The merger was finalized just before Mr. Trump's Monday deadline to obtain bail covering a $454 million fine imposed by a judge in a civil fraud case.

The former president's Trump Media shares could provide him with a financial lifeline to raise the cash needed to secure bail. But to do that, he needs all seven members of Trump Media's board to remove a restriction that prevents him from selling stock or using stock as collateral for a bond for the next six months.

The board includes Mr. Trump's eldest son, Donald Jr., and three former members of his administration: Kash Patel, who was chief of staff to Mr. Trump's acting defense secretary; former U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer; and Linda McMahon, former administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Ms. McMahon is chairing a major fundraiser for Mr. Trump scheduled for April 6 in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a copy of the invitation. The event is co-hosted by John Paulson, the billionaire investor, and is chaired by a number of Wall Street financiers. Mr. Yass is not mentioned among them.

Maggie Haberman reports contributed.

Related Articles

Back to top button