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Real Estate Billionaire Assembling Bid To Buy TikTok

An American billionaire and real estate magnate has stepped up to buy TikTok following a new law that forces the sale of the app.

Frank McCourt, executive chairman of private development firm McCourt Global and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, confirmed with Semafor he plans to purchase and rebuild TikTok. His version of the app would leverage his proprietary Project Liberty technology to put the control of personal data and digital identities back in the hands of users, McCourt said.

TikTok plans to leverage its e-commerce success by building out industrial infrastructure.

“TikTok presents the best and worst of the internet. It connects 170 million people and allows them to be creative and build things and enjoy things and do things,” McCourt told Semafor. “On the other hand, they don’t get to really share in the value that’s created, and their data is scraped and stolen and shipped to China.”

With the help of investment bank Guggenheim Securities, McCourt is soliciting investments from foundations, endowments, pension funds and the public to mount a bid for the app, which analysts estimate could sell for around $100B. 

McCourt Global’s portfolio of projects includes the development of the Boston Seaport project and the renovation of Dodgers Stadium. The development team has planned, designed and constructed more than 30M SF of office, hotel, residential and mixed-use projects, according to the company’s website.

Bids for TikTok come after Congress passed a law that forces China-based ByteDance to sell the app within 270 days or risk being banned in app stores in the U.S. President Joe Biden signed the bill April 24.

TikTok sued the federal government in response, citing violations of the first amendment by attempting to eradicate a tool millions of Americans use to exercise freedom of speech, the New York Times reported.

The legislation has yet to deter TikTok’s real estate plans in the U.S., with the app moving forward with the buildout of its 57K SF space on Nashville’s Music Row. The company also has office space in California, Washington D.C., the Seattle suburbs and New York City.

The app poses national security risks and could be used by the Chinese government to spy on U.S. citizens, legislators who supported the bill said.

But those who use the app regularly say its benefits go beyond social networking. TikTok has become a more common tool for CRE dealmaking, with some brokers claiming the ban could be bad for business.

McCourt’s bid is likely to be challenged by other suitors eager to absorb TikTok’s massive advertising business and user base. Already, former U.S. Secretary Steve Mnuchin has expressed interest in purchasing the app, as well as Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary and Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision.