A US health and tech entrepreneur has raised $20m (£16.2m) to launch an ‘anti-awakening’ investment fund that will spur companies to focus on winning of money rather than the defense of political causes.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the author of Woke Inc who made his fortune investing in pharmaceutical companies, has secured backing from hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel to launch the new venture, called Strive.
Mr Ramaswamy said Strive would only invest in companies that focus on maximizing profits and avoid those that espouse political beliefs.
The 36-year-old called his approach ‘excellence capitalism’, saying companies should only be concerned with making money, and lashed out at the creeping liberalism of what he dubbed the “ideological cartel” of BlackRock, Vanguard and other big money managers.
Mr Ramaswamy told the Wall Street Journal: ‘We will tell oil companies to be great oil companies and coal companies to be great coal companies and solar companies to be great solar companies.’
BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink has previously hit back at accusations that the investment giant has “woke up”.
In January, he said, “Stakeholder capitalism is not politics. It is not a social or ideological program. It’s not “awakened”. It’s capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your business relies on to thrive.
It came after conservative groups criticized BlackRock, which manages more than $10 trillion in assets, for its ‘woke posturing’ to hide the funneling of money to Chinese companies through its investment funds. .
Mr Ramaswamy said he “naturally took the next step” to launch his own fund after the Manhattan Institute invited him and Mr Fink to discuss stakeholder capitalism in 2020 and Mr Fink refused.
He wrote on Twitter: “Now the market can decide for itself.”
Other fund managers have expressed concern that corporate giants are increasingly focusing on contentious political issues around delivering returns to their shareholders.
Consumer goods giant Unilever has previously been criticized for its emphasis on the “external impact and purpose” of business.
In January, one of Britain’s best-known fund managers attacked Unilever for its “ridiculous” focus on sustainability, adding that the company had “lost the plot” in trying to “define the goal of Hellmann mayonnaise”.
Terry Smith said the “most obvious manifestation” of this was how Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s ice cream refused to supply the West Bank.
In July last year, Ben & Jerry’s said it was incompatible with its values for the product to be sold in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, prompting a backlash from the Israeli government.