Upstart Money Manager Gets Billionaires to Back the Anti-BlackRock

An upstart financial firm backed by Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman has a message for American corporations: Focus on making money, not standing.

Vivek Ramaswamy, who made a fortune in pharmaceutical startups before writing a book called “Woke, Inc.” last year, said he raised $20 million to set up a fund manager that will urge companies not to get involved in social or environmental issues. . Mr. Thiel has invested both personally and through his Founders Fund, joined by Palantir Technologies Inc.

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co-founder Joe Lonsdale and other venture capitalists.

Mr. Ramaswamy’s ambition speaks to the culture war lurking in front of US corporate executives. Under growing pressure from employees, investors and customers, many have taken public positions on political issues only to face criticism from the other side. Walt Disney Co.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek recently tipped off whether to pre-weigh a controversial Florida law, angering both sides. Coca-Cola Co.

and Delta Air Lines Inc.

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received a response last year for criticizing changes to election rules in Georgia.

The company, called Strive, will be based far away from Wall Street in the state of Ohio, Mr. Ramaswamy’s hometown. In an interview on Monday, the 36-year-old called his approach “excellent capitalism,” which focuses on letting companies do what they do best — and no nothing else — and delve into what he considers the dreaded liberal prejudice in BlackRock Inc.

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and its peers, the Vanguard Group and State Street Corp.

which he calls an “ideological cartel”.

Those three companies have in recent years become almost unimaginably large, managing $20 trillion in assets. They have pushed companies to improve diversity, cut emissions, and embrace other changes — largely under the banner of “stakeholder capitalism,” considering other outcomes, not only profit, when assessing the behavior of the business.

In one famous example, all three sided with Exxon Mobil Corp. in the fight against a small hedge fund that has criticized its climate change strategy and is seeking a seat on the board.

Mr. Ramaswamy said he would not have. “We will tell the oil companies that the oil companies are excellent and the coal companies that are excellent coal companies and the solar companies that are outstanding solar companies,” he said. sharp. Mr. Ramaswamy wrote for the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Representatives for BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard could not be immediately reached for comment.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has publicly rejected the idea that his personal politics have overshadowed the judgment his company makes when it votes on behalf of investors. investment.

He wrote in January: “Stakeholder capitalism is not politics. “It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘awakened.’ ”

People familiar with the matter said Mr Ramaswamy’s project began to be covered up a few months ago, code-named “Whitestone”. It is unknown what products it will offer and has a long way to go to compete with the combined market power of the financial giants it seeks to challenge.

“Most Americans want companies to stay out of politics,” he said. “They want a separate space for where they shop, where they work, and where they invest from the places where they vote or participate in their political debates.”

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