Who is Jeff Yass? The billionaire donor with investments in TikTok’s parent company

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In nan sounded conflict betwixt TikTok and Washington, fewer group guidelines to suffer much than Jeff Yass, an American billionaire options trader who has emerged successful caller years arsenic a awesome philanthropist to Republican candidates and causes. 

Yass co-founded nan Philadelphia-based trading patient Susquehanna International Group, which owns a 15% liking successful TikTok’s China-based genitor company, ByteDance. Yass’ individual stock is 7%, worthy astir $21 billion.

Yass’ finance is nether threat today, and nan typically press-shy billionaire is taking occurrence from some nan near and nan right. Critics impeach Yass of bankrolling an army of lobbyists and orchestrating a bare-knuckle unit campaign to protect TikTok — including by leveraging his nascent narration pinch erstwhile President Donald Trump.

Through a spokesperson, Yass declined to remark connected this story.

On Wednesday, nan House is expected to walk bipartisan authorities that would unit ByteDance to divest TikTok wrong a matter of months. President Joe Biden said that he would motion it into rule if the measure wins Senate approval.

“It would beryllium a gut punch to nan valuation and early of TikTok if a prohibition and forced waste came to fruition,” Dan Ives, a managing head and elder equity investigation expert astatine Wedbush Securities, said successful an email.

“This would beryllium a nightmare for Yass, fixed nan awesome finance successful TikTok, if a forced prohibition deed nan institution nether nan Biden administration,” Ives said. The effect would “likely beryllium a 25% deed to nan wide valuation.” 

Susquehanna first invested successful ByteDance successful 2012, agelong earlier nan institution created TikTok and past merged it pinch a short-form video app called “Musical.ly” successful 2018. When nan app exploded successful popularity, Susquehanna’s finance paid off. 

Today, astatine slightest 150 cardinal Americans use TikTok regularly, according to institution data.

Yet lawmakers connected some sides of nan aisle opportunity TikTok’s soaring fame is portion of nan logic it poses a sedate threat to nationalist security. They reason that ByteDance’s Beijing-based engineers and executives are amassing a dangerously ample trove of information from tens of millions of Americans. 

The House measure “is astir ensuring we’re protecting nan information of nan American people, and making judge our overseas adversaries can’t beryllium targeting our group and utilizing that information against them. That’s what’s happening, we cognize that for sure,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told NBC News connected Monday.

The institution has said it stores U.S. users’ information securely and rejects nan thought that it poses a threat to nationalist security.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is expected to sojourn Capitol Hill this week to meet pinch members of Congress, portion of an 11th-hour lobbying run to halt nan measure successful nan Senate. 

Behind nan scenes, Yass whitethorn besides beryllium helping to style nan statement complete TikTok.

A awesome player

Jeff Yass is not your mean billionaire who wants thing retired of Washington. 

During nan 2022 midterm elections, Yass donated $47 million to thief Republican candidates and committees, making him nan third-largest blimpish governmental philanthropist successful America. 

Yass has described himself arsenic a registered libertarian and served for decades arsenic a trustee of nan nonprofit Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington deliberation tank. A media typical astatine Cato did not reply to a petition for remark from CNBC. 

By each accounts, Yass’ No. 1 animating rumor is “school choice,” nan mostly blimpish activity that intends to springiness payer dollars to families to thief them salary for backstage schools. Yass and his woman person poured millions of dollars into national and authorities elections, arsenic good arsenic nonprofits and initiatives, aimed astatine expanding alternatives to nationalist schools.

According to a personification granted anonymity to talk Yass’ governmental giving, nan Pennsylvania-based billionaire makes decisions astir supporting candidates based wholly connected their “school choice” positions.

The causes and candidates Yass gives money to person thing to do pinch TikTok, nan personification said, astatine slightest not necessarily.

For example, Yass donated $6 million successful December successful support of Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election bid.

Abbott sides pinch Yass connected “school choice” issues, but successful 2022 nan politician signed an executive order  banning TikTok from government-issued cellphones and computers. 

Overlapping interests

In Washington, respective salient blimpish governmental groups support “school choice” policies and besides reason nan TikTok ban. 

The Club for Growth is 1 of them. A awesome supporter of “school choice” candidates and bills, nan statement and its related groups person besides worked difficult to mobilize opposition to a TikTok prohibition connected Capitol Hill.

“Giving nan authorities nan powerfulness to prohibition apps and prime and take betwixt competing apps is simply a immense regularisation connected telephone freedom,” Club for Growth’s David McIntosh wrote successful an op-ed past March connected Fox News’ website.

Over nan people of 2023, Yass gave $16 cardinal to nan Club for Growth Action, a governmental action committee affiliated pinch nan nonprofit.

On Friday, nan group magnified a station connected X from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, successful which he agreed pinch erstwhile President Donald Trump’s unexpected announcement that he opposed nan TikTok ban. 

Trump’s about-face connected TikTok came conscionable a week aft he briefly met pinch Yass and his wife. The erstwhile president told CNBC Monday that their speech did not move to TikTok, but alternatively covered education-related matters. 

The gathering took spot astatine nan Club for Growth’s donor retreat successful Florida, nan root acquainted pinch nan matter explained. At nan retreat Trump delivered a reside praising Yass and McIntosh, according to Politico.

Trump’s flip-flop was particularly astonishing fixed that Trump was nan first president to propose a prohibition connected TikTok.

“There are a batch of group connected TikTok that emotion it. There are a batch of young kids connected TikTok who will spell crazy without it,” Trump told CNBC connected Monday.

Kalhan Rosenblatt

Kalhan Rosenblatt is simply a newsman covering younker and net civilization for NBC News, based successful New York.