Billionaire real estate investor Frank McCourt wants to buy TikTok — but he’s not interested in the algorithm

McCourt said on Wednesday that he is assembling a group of specialists, including investment bank Guggenheim Securities and law firm Kirkland & Ellis, as well as technology experts, academics, and parents, to consult on buying the US division of the viral social media app.

The announcement follows a decision by US lawmakers last month to ban Chinese-owned 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 already said 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, per Forbes, and made 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 data privacy, among other issues. Several high-profile technologists support the bid, including Tim Berners-Lee, according to the project’s website.

McCourt wants to change TikTok’s basic business to an open-source model that allows users and creators more control over their data.

The announcement did not share details of how much money is being raised or whether the group is in already in talks with TikTok.

McCourt, who previously owned the Los Angeles Dodgers, is on the short list of investors who have shown interest in buying the platform. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he thought about buying the platform but decided against it. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s eyeing a purchase, but he may not have the funds to do it. Big Tech companies are almost sure to face antitrust concerns if they want in.

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

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

“We doubt very much that China would sell TikTok with the algorithm,” McCourt told the Times. “We’re the one 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 operates.”

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

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Shubhangi Goel