Trump's media startup deal approved, setting up potential windfall

(Bloomberg) — Former president Donald Trump is set to get a big payday — on paper at least — after investors voted to approve a blank-check deal that would bring his nascent media startup public as soon as next week.

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The approval, announced in a press release Friday after an earlier vote, clears a near-final hurdle for Trump Media & Technology Group to go public in a deal with Digital World Acquisition Corp. after more than two years of snags as the company burned through its cash.

The merger could potentially hand Trump nearly $4 billion worth of shares, though they would be subject to lock-up agreements and performance requirements that may temporarily hinder his ability to monetize the stock and ease his present cash crunch.

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Completing the merger would give Trump billions of dollars worth of stock based on his more than 58% stake in the company, and be a boon for Devin Nunes, a former California Representative who left Congress to become CEO of Trump Media, and other insiders. Trump and other company insiders could earn millions in additional shares depending on the stock’s ability to perform, however there are a number of caveats to the windfall.

Trump and other stakeholders will have to wait months to cash out because members of Trump Media’s management team are subject to a lock-up period of roughly six months during which they cannot sell or transfer shares, unless the company files to expedite that timing.

Despite those restrictions, the windfall may come at a critical time for Trump who earlier this month became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He’s paying millions of dollars a month to fund his ongoing legal troubles, which include four criminal indictments.

Trump posted Friday on Truth Social, the platform operated by Trump Media, that he has almost $500 million in cash on hand. That’s a hefty sum, yet it would still fall short of covering the appeal bond due in three days in New York state’s civil fraud suit. And Trump’s fundraising efforts trail those of his rival President Joe Biden by a wide margin, as many traditional GOP donors are hesitant to publicly back Trump’s reelection bid.

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Gains Erased

DWAC shares fell 14% in the biggest drop since January, erasing a 12% gain on Friday, after the approval went through as expected. Warrants tied to the SPAC dropped 6.3% to $18.37.

The special-purpose acquisition vehicle has more than doubled this year as investors use it as a way to bet on Trump’s push for re-election. The stock has been a favorite among the retail-trading crowd since the deal was announced in 2021 with posts across Stocktwits and Reddit Inc.’s WallStreetBets forum encouraging people to buy shares.

The infusion of more than $275 million will be much-needed for Trump Media which has been vocal about its ambitions to compete with the likes of Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook. The startup’s success broadly hinges on growth for Truth Social, a product that offers a user experience similar to X yet whose growth has underwhelmed since its debut.

So far, investors have continued to view the company as a meme stock with the retail trading crowd’s loyalty standing in stark contrast with Trump Media’s financial struggles. Trump Media lost $49 million in the nine months through September while generating just $3.4 million in revenue, according to regulatory filings. The firm warned earlier that it could go bankrupt without the SPAC deal being completed.

The company has been active in recent weeks, courting to vote for the merger a group of retail traders — who historically have missed out on similar events. The companies will likely push to complete the merger in the coming days with Trump Media making its trading debut as soon as next week under the ticker DJT.

–With assistance from Erik Larson.

(Updates with confirmation of vote in second paragraph.)

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