Two American billionaires are backing a fledgling investment firm that will push companies to avoid taking a stand on social issues.
The company, Strive Asset Management, is based in Columbus, Ohio, and will be led by Vivek Ramaswamy, the former CEO of Roivant Sciences, a biotech company. The Wall Street Journal first announced the formation of the company, which was later announced via press release.
Ramaswamy, who will serve as executive chairman, has raised $20 million to start the company, which he says will go against the “stakeholder capitalism” of BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street and the idea of ”mixing business with politics”.
Sources of the company’s seed capital include PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman (pictured), among others. The company’s other co-founder is Anson Frericks, a former executive at Anheuser-Busch InBev in St. Louis, Missouri.
Strive expects to launch its first product in Q3 2022.
“We want iconic American brands like Disney, Coca-Cola and Exxon, and American tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google to deliver high-quality products that improve our lives, not controversial political ideologies that divide us,” Ramaswamy said in a statement.
“The Big Three asset managers have fueled this polarizing new trend in American business, and that is why we will compete head-on with them to refocus American business on the common pursuit of excellence rather than politics,” he added.
Ramaswamy is launching the business at a time when stakeholder capitalism is gaining popularity. The three companies mentioned in his statement — Disney, Coca-Cola and Exxon — have all recently taken what have been seen as political positions.
Disney opposed Florida’s opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, Coca-Cola opposed voting restrictions passed by the GOP in Georgia, and an activist hedge fund , Engine No. 1, led a successful campaign to add two board members to Exxon Mobil’s board of directors over the oil company’s climate change plans.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink insisted in January that his brand of stakeholder capitalism was not “woke” after criticism from conservatives for its ESG support, as it did when BlackRock backed the No. 1 engine in the Exxon case.
“It’s capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers and communities your business relies on to thrive,” Fink said. “We focus on sustainability not because we are environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and trustees for our customers.”