Vivek Ramaswamy Claims He Influenced Disney. That’s Exponentially Overblown.

Vivek Ramaswamy has sculpted his conservative bona fides—to the extent that he had conservative bona fides before running for president—on his history as an “anti-woke,” tell-it-like-it-is warrior against companies like Disney.

Ramaswamy has demanded that Disney be “held accountable,” and he’s used the company as a cudgel against his top GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The trouble is, Ramaswamy hasn’t really put his money where his mouth is.

Despite going hard against Disney in his book and penning a strongly worded shareholder letter to then-CEO Bob Chapek in September 2022, Ramaswamy and his hedge fund, Strive Asset Management, have done little to influence the company, despite his very public claims otherwise.

When Chapek was fired by a unanimous board vote in late November 2022, Strive—where Ramaswamy was then chairman—claimed that Chapek’s dismissal was “consistent with Strive’s shareholder mandates.”

Although politicians love to claim credit for just about anything they can, “Strive’s shareholder mandates” weren’t much of a mandate at all.

Ramaswamy and his fund may have talked a big game, but they owned an infinitesimally small amount of Disney stock compared to the overall value of the company. According to shareholder information shared with The Daily Beast, Strive had $850,000 of Disney stock in a company with a market cap value of $167 billion on the day Chapek was fired—which is to say, Strive owned 0.0005% of Disney at the time.

But that didn’t stop Ramaswamy from taking a victory lap over the decision and acting as if his grandstanding against Disney’s “political agendas” had played a role in Chapek’s ouster.

Among GOP presidential candidates, the race to be the most oppositional to Disney has been a fiercely contested competition. Ramaswamy has touted his investment firm’s role in ousting Chapek as a key accomplishment. But like much of Ramaswamy’s record, his claims don’t match up well with reality.

A good bit of Ramaswamy’s Republican origin story goes back to his investment fund, which is currently facing a lawsuit from former employees over management allegedly pressuring workers to violate securities laws.

The candidate mentioned the company 30 times in his 2021 book Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam, which served as the springboard to his upstart presidential bid. Ramaswamy’s lane in the field was pleasing to Trumpworld precisely because of his potential to outflank DeSantis to the right on the House of Mouse.

The trouble is, the closest Ramaswamy ever got to taking the fight to Disney was his irrelevant warning shots against a company in which he owned 1/20,000th of the behemoth, according to the information shared with The Daily Beast.

It’s a stark departure from Strive’s boastful talk in a December 2022 press release, which touted a number of ways in which the firm held Disney accountable.

Ramaswamy boasted about Strive’s “engagement” with Disney, publicly identifying Disney as a target for the upcoming proxy voting season and touting the letter shareholders sent in September.

That letter did, in fact, roast Disney for speaking out against Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act”—more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “We believe that proper board oversight and governance could have mitigated the damage to Disney’s business interests resulting from this decision and wish to understand the board’s level of engagement on this question… We remind Disney’s board that it owes a fiduciary duty solely to Disney’s actual owners, not to a minority of its employees, activist organizations, or to large financial institutions who promote one-sided political agendas,” Strive wrote in its letter.

But as far as “Disney’s actual owners” goes, Strive was hardly one, according to the shareholder information.

Ramaswamy has leaned heavily on his experience as an investor with a political agenda and much less heavily on his experience as a pharmaceutical company founder. His days as a pharma magnate, while highly lucrative for him personally, don’t quite carry the same level of cultural cachet with GOP voters—and, in fact, could be a political liability.

Eight in 10 Americans, across party lines, say profits made by pharmaceutical companies are a “major factor” in the price of prescription drugs, and even two-thirds of Republicans say there isn’t as much regulation as there should be on the price of prescription drugs.

As one GOP strategist put it, is it better to be known as—in his own words—a mentor and “friend” of the infamous Martin Shrkeli, or as someone who took the fight to Disney?

“For voters, it’s very important to look at Vivek’s record here,” the strategist said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “It’s all rooted in a con man joint.”

Ramaswamy’s campaign did not return a request for comment.

A New York Times report from the DealBook newsletter in September 2022 described Ramaswamy’s new venture as using the “power of shareholder votes to refocus large companies on maximizing profit, a goal from which Ramaswamy says boardrooms have strayed.” It also mentioned the same shareholder letter to Disney that Strive touted in its press release taking partial credit for Chapek’s firing.

That was, of course, in the infancy stages of Strive’s promised rise as a major player, with a lofty goal of rivaling the likes of Blackrock and Vanguard as a heavyweight fund able to influence corporate governance—but from the right.

While Ramaswamy certainly acts as if he accomplished that mission, it’s unclear if he ever did.

“What you do prior to running for president effectively amounts to your record,” the GOP strategist said.

But with only about $850,000 worth of shares, Ramaswamy wasn’t exactly the hardened and deep-pocketed superhero he plays on Fox News.

“It’s a big deal, and more Republican voters, I think as they learn about it, they may like what he’s saying, he’s still unknown, but when they learn more about his record, I think those are going to raise some eyebrows and concerns for voters,” the GOP strategist said.


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