Thursday, May 23, 2024

Why Barry Diller Calls Trump Media Stock Buyers ‘Dopes’

HomeStock-MarketWhy Barry Diller Calls Trump Media Stock Buyers 'Dopes'

In a brash television outburst, billionaire media mogul Barry Diller didn’t mince words about his disdain for Donald Trump’s fledgling social media venture. The outspoken boss of internet giants like Expedia and Tinder app-maker Match Group branded Trump Media & Technology Group’s sky-high stock price “ridiculous” and its core Truth Social platform “a scam” during a live interview Thursday.

“It’s a scam, just like everything he’s ever been involved in is some sort of con,” Diller, 81, railed unprompted when asked about the Trump-backed company on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

A Trump Media spokesperson quickly fired back at the sharp-tongued executive, accusing Diller and others of being “die-hard Trump haters and leftwing flacks” throwing a tantrum because Truth Social refuses to censor speech challenging their preferred narratives. However, the firm did not directly dispute Diller’s core allegation that the whole operation is essentially a “scam.”

The origins of this heated war-of-words? Trump Media’s mind-bogglingly inflated $6.4 billion valuation despite languishing user numbers and paltry revenue for its Truth Social app – the belated response to Trump’s lifetime Twitter ban after the January 6th insurrection. Trump is Truth’s co-founder and majority owner.

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“I mean, it’s ridiculous. The company has no revenue,” Diller scoffed, openly questioning the judgment of investors piling into Trump Media since it went public last October.

“Who would buy a company that literally, what does it have, $30 of revenue? Who could put a value on that?” he mocked. “I think they’re dopes.”

Indeed, the formerly smartphone-addicted, all-caps-tweeting former president’s upstart platform generated a measly $4.1 million in revenue last year according to Trump Media’s own financial filings. Yet its shares are somehow trading in the $40s – having briefly topped $80 in a speculative frenzy reminiscent of 2021’s “meme stock” manias around dying businesses like GameStop and AMC theaters.

“They’re buying it for other reasons, just like they bought theaters when there was no theater business or bought GameStop, whatever,” Diller dismissively theorized about the motive for pouring money into the Trump-affiliated firm.

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So is Diller right that Trump Media is all smoke and mirrors? A craven cash-grab preying on the former president’s most fervently loyal “MAGA” supporters? Or could Truth Social defy the doubters by eventually giving wildly popular apps like Twitter a real run for their money – perhaps super-charged if Trump returns to the Oval Office?

Both sides have plenty of fodder to back their polarized views.

While Twitter and Facebook permanently booted Trump for allegedly inciting violence with his false stolen election claims, Truth Social’s lax content moderation has also sparked accusations it’s a misinformation-fueling cesspool giving safe harbor to hate speech, conspiracy theories and other extremist garbage. Yet Trump defenders dismiss this as awfully rich criticism coming from tech titans who’ve likewise been accused of politically-biased censorship.

As for the business case, Truth’s anemic user numbers pale in comparison to even faded social giants like Trump’s old haunt Twitter – which boasts over 300 million monthly active users versus Truth’s mere few million. Though to be fair, the Trump co-founded app is barely over a year old as it tries clawing market share from entrenched behemoths.

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Then again, many companies with initially tiny revenue and user bases have gone on to colossal success in the unforgiving, winner-take-most social media landscape. Look no further than Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s other wildly successful creation, the mobile payments juggernaut Square (now renamed Block).

For his part, the always outspoken Diller seems unmoved by Truth Social’s long-shot odds, closing with this snarky prediction:

“Look, he’s only interesting now because he’s out there entertaining the folks. I hope if he gets elected he just plays golf for four years.”

Whether you love or hate Trump, you certainly can’t accuse Diller of pussyfooting around his true feelings on Truth Social’s legitimacy. But the ultimate verdict on Diller’s “scam” charge may only come with the harsh light of time.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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