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'Shark Tank' star Kevin O'Leary said he wants to crowdfund buying TikTok

Shubhangi Goel   

'Shark Tank' star Kevin O'Leary said he wants to crowdfund buying TikTok
  • Kevin O'Leary said on Tuesday that he wants to crowdfund buying TikTok.
  • The move comes after US lawmakers agreed on a plan to ban Chinese-owned TikTok unless it is sold.

Kevin O'Leary has put himself on the notably short list of people who say they want to buy TikTok — and he's making it a group effort.

The "Shark Tank" investor said on Tuesday that he set up a crowdfunding website to gauge interest in collectively buying the social media platform. The site allows anyone to "reserve" spots to become investors in the potential US version of TikTok. It's not accepting any payments yet, and reservations are only a way to indicate interest.

If the crowdfunding campaign kicks off, it would be subject to US rules that limit investors to people who earn over $200,000 or have specific finance qualifications.

"I'd like to democratize TikTok and turn it into a platform where the user data is protected from the prying eyes of foreign adversaries," O'Leary said in a video he posted on Instagram.

The announcement follows a decision by US lawmakers last month to ban Chinese-owned TikTok from US app stores unless it is sold in less than a year. TikTok's parent company ByteDance, sued the federal government over the ban earlier this month. TikTok has already said it has no plans to sell the platform.

O'Leary, a Canadian investor, first raised his hand to buy the platform in March, saying that TikTok is "not going to get banned because I'm gonna buy it." He said that he didn't think Google or Meta would be able to purchase it because of antitrust concerns. The same month, he said his starting bid would be $20 billion to $30 billion — a 90% cut in valuation based on the company's last funding round.

The new website, however, did not share details of how much money he plans to raise or whether his project is already in talks with TikTok.

Representatives for O'Leary did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

O'Leary joins a list of investors who said they are keen to buy the viral short-form video platform. His potential bidding competitors include former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Bobby Kotick, the former CEO of gaming giant Activision.

There is very little consensus on TikTok's price. One valuation pegs the US business at $100 billion, but another says it is immaterial to ByteDance's revenue. The platform may also be less attractive if it is sold without its "For You Page" algorithm, which has been credited for its success.

In March, O'Leary said that it is unlikely that the Chinese government will sell TikTok with its algorithms, and a potential buyer would have to "re-emulate" the platform.

Before he joined "Shark Tank" at the show's 2009 outset, O'Leary bought and consolidated software businesses in the late 1980s and 1990s.

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