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Billionaire Frank McCourt raises his hand to buy TikTok

McCourt said Wednesday he was bringing together a group of specialists, including the investment bank Guggenheim Securities and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, as well as technology experts, academics and parents, to consult on the purchase of the viral social media app’s U.S. division.

The announcement follows a decision last month by US lawmakers to ban Chinese company TikTok from US app stores unless it is sold within a year. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, sued the federal government over the ban last week. TikTok has previously stated that it has no plans to sell the platform.

“We thought this was a really fantastic opportunity to accelerate the creation of an alternative Internet,” McCourt told The Associated Press. The 70-year-old is worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes, and has built his wealth through real estate and sports investments.

The potential purchase would be made through Project Liberty, an internet advocacy group founded by McCourt in 2021 that focuses on, among other things, data privacy. Several top technologists are supporting the application, including Tim Berners-Lee, according to the project’s website.

McCourt wants to shift TikTok’s core business to an open source model that gives users and creators more control over their data.

The announcement did not provide details on the amount of money raised or whether the group is already in talks with TikTok.

McCourt, who previously owned the Los Angeles Dodgers, is on the shortlist of investors who have expressed interest in purchasing the platform. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he considered buying the platform but decided against it. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was considering a purchase but may not have the funds to do so. Big tech companies will almost certainly face antitrust issues if they want to participate.

There is very little consensus on the price of the app: one valuation pegs the US company at $100 billion, but another says it is. irrelevant to ByteDance’s revenue. The platform may also be less attractive if sold without its “For You Page” algorithm, which has been credited for its success.

McCourt told the New York Times he didn’t want the algorithm.

“We very much doubt that China will sell TikTok with the algorithm,” McCourt told the Times. “We’re the only bidder that doesn’t want the algorithm because we’re talking about a different architecture, a different way of thinking about the Internet and how it works.”

TikTok and representatives for McCourt did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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