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Business News/ News / World/  Trump Mastered The Art of the SPAC Deal. Cashing Out Is Harder
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Trump Mastered The Art of the SPAC Deal. Cashing Out Is Harder

The value of Donald Trump’s stake in his media startup may have shrunk since going public through a blank-check merger, but on paper, it’s still worth a lot. The question for the former president is, should he decide to sell, how much he could actually extract.

Trump Mastered The Art of the SPAC Deal. Cashing Out Is HarderPremium
Trump Mastered The Art of the SPAC Deal. Cashing Out Is Harder

(Bloomberg) -- The value of Donald Trump’s stake in his media startup may have shrunk since going public through a blank-check merger, but on paper, it’s still worth a lot. The question for the former president is, should he decide to sell, how much he could actually extract.

At its peak last month, Trump’s 58% stake in Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. was worth as much as $6.3 billion. Trump and other insiders are unable to sell due to a six-month lockup agreement. That didn’t stop other shareholders who rode a 270% rally from cashing out — following the deal, the shares lost roughly two thirds of their value in a matter of weeks.

Such a plunge is not unheard of for firms that use special purpose acquisition companies to go public. More than a fifth of de-SPACs, those who complete such deals, that debuted since 2019 are trading below $1 each, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Most SPACs go public at a price of $10 per share.

Trump has given no public indication he intends to sell, but if he does, he may look to the example of the insiders who benefited handsomely from some of the splashiest SPAC deals at the height of the boom. The former president might still pocket hundreds of millions — not a bad return on a company that took in just $4.1 million in revenue last year.

Trump Media said in response to a request for comment on Donald Trump’s path to cashing out of the firm that reporting on it would be “utterly baseless" and partisan, “without any conceivable sign anywhere that he plans to do so."

Read More: Trump Media’s $5.3 Billion Selloff Deepens as 270% Rally Fizzles

Briefly Billionaires

The founders of biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings Inc. were briefly billionaires in late 2021 after their company went public in a SPAC deal that sent shares soaring to a $29 billion valuation in its first months as a public company. But by the time they began selling in late 2022, the company’s share price had crashed from a high of $14.92 to a little over $3.

Still, three of the founders — Jason Kelly, Barry Canton and Reshma Shetty — steadily sold, liquidating between 20% and 30% of their original stakes over the following 18 months. Although the sales went for roughly $2 a share on average, it was enough to net them more than $125 million in proceeds.

Representatives for Ginkgo Bioworks, where all three are still executives, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A similar 80% plunge for Trump Media would still suggest proceeds of roughly $1 billion for the former president. That’s more than twice as much as his most valuable real estate holding and would cover the money he owes from recent legal rulings.

Selling isn’t the only way founders can get liquidity. When mortgage originator UWM Holdings Corp. went public in a January 2021 SPAC merger, Chief Executive Officer Mat Ishbia owned a stake worth more than $11 billion. Roughly 20 months later, shares had sunk 75% from their highs. 

Instead of selling shares and adding to the pressure, Ishbia arranged a loan using his stake as collateral. He pledged more than half of the company’s shares, worth some $4.6 billion, days before he bought the Phoenix Suns basketball team for a record $4 billion in February last year when UWM was trading below $5 a share.

A representative for UWM and Ishbia didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Not all founders cash out from their SPAC deals, of course. Take John Ruiz, founder of insurance reimbursement recovery firm MSP Recovery Inc. The company went public at a $32.6 billion valuation, giving Ruiz a paper fortune — briefly — of $21 billion. Nearly two years after, Ruiz hasn’t sold any of his stake and the company is valued around $120 million. In fact, Ruiz has lent the company money to help it stay afloat.

A representative for Ruiz and MSP didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump Media Insiders

Any move to free Trump Media insiders from the six-month lock-up agreement preventing them from selling would be potentially fraught. Though the newly public company’s board could waive the sales restrictions, the optics would likely signal to investors that a rush of selling is on the horizon, and would also open them up to potential shareholder lawsuits.

Trump is embroiled in a lawsuit with two co-founders who claim he tried to dilute their stake. A Delaware judge granted a request to amend the suit to include accusing Trump of retaliating by locking up their shares for six months, which they claim will cause “irreparable harm" to their finances. Trump is subject to the same lockup.

The stock’s roughly 70% slide from a debut peak has cost the pair some $415 million on paper. For Trump, his paper returns have spiraled roughly $4.4 billion — and that doesn’t count the additional windfall he and other Trump Media insiders are on track to reap.

The company announced on Tuesday that it had finished the research phase of its new live TV streaming platform, according to a press release. It plans to offer Truth Social over-the-top streaming apps which are expected to host news, religious and family-friendly content.

Trump is also facing four criminal prosecutions as he campaigns to return to the White House. The first criminal trial started Monday in Manhattan, where he’s accused of falsifying business records to hide a hush-money payment to a porn star before the 2016 election. He described the case as an outrage and a persecution.

Read More: Trump Trial Off to Slow Start With Ex-President Appearing Bored

As part of the SPAC deal, Trump Media insiders are slated to get another 40 million shares as long as the stock holds above the $17.50 mark for another six trading days. It was trading at around $23 per share on Tuesday.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 17 Apr 2024, 12:12 AM IST
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