What to Know About Digital World, the Company Funding Trump’s New Social Media Platform ‘TRUTH Social’
Former President Donald Trump’s new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), announced Saturday that it has secured $1 billion in funding from a “diverse group” of institutional investors ahead of going public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC)—a shell company set up for the sole purpose of raising money to acquire another company.
The $1.25 billion in proceeds that TMTG estimates will result from the planned merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a blank check company headed by financier Patrick Orlando that was set up with the intention of “combining with a leading tech company,” will ostensibly go toward the development and launch of Trump’s forthcoming social media platform, TRUTH Social, as well as future related ventures.
“$1 billion sends an important message to Big Tech that censorship and political discrimination must end. America is ready for TRUTH Social, a platform that will not discriminate on the basis of political ideology,” Trump said in a statement included in Saturday’s press release. “As our balance sheet expands, TMTG will be in a stronger position to fight back against the tyranny of Big Tech.”
While the identities of the investors that have entered into agreements with Digital World remain unknown—an unusual situation in a private investment in public equity, or PIPE, transaction— Orlando himself is a former Deutsche Bank AG derivatives trader who co-founded a sugar trading company and started a banking firm, Benessere Capital, before more recently turning to SPACs.
“We believe the combined company can grow on an incredibly strong foundation,” Orlando said in a statement, adding that he believes TMTG will use the capital to continue to “attract top talent, hire top technology providers, and roll out significant advertising and business development campaigns.”
As for Digital World’s board, Bloomberg reported in October that it is “light with people with media expertise.”
The SPAC’s chief financial officer is Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Braganca, a member of Brazil’s National Congress and self-proclaimed prince who has called for a return to the Brazilian monarchy and is an ally of the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Digital World’s partnership with TMTG was announced in October—six weeks after the company certified at the time of its initial public offering in September that it did not have an acquisition target in mind—in conjunction with TMTG’s plans for TRUTH Social, a platform being touted as a refuge for free speech and the “first major rival to ‘Big Tech.’”
TRUTH Social will launch sometime in the first quarter 2022. This is about one year after Trump was temporarily banned from many major social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced,” Trump said in an October statement. “This is unacceptable.”
According to a regulatory filing by Digital World first reported by the New York Times, the company’s deal with TMTG is currently being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, with the SEC looking into “documents and communications” between Digital World and TMTG as well as “policies and procedures relating to trading” and the identities of certain investors.
The filing states that Digital World is cooperating with regulators and that “the investigation does not mean that the SEC has concluded that anyone violated the law or that the SEC has a negative opinion of DWAC or any person, event, or security.”
Digital World did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.