Republican Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s “Anti-Woke” Asset Management Fund Reaches $1 Billion in Assets
Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate, has achieved a significant milestone with his asset management fund. The Ohio-based firm, Strive, has surpassed $1 billion in assets under management. Strive differentiates itself by positioning as “anti-woke” and “anti-ESG,” meaning it does not consider environmental, social, and corporate governance factors when making investment decisions.
According to Strive CEO Matt Cole, the rapid growth of the firm reflects investors’ preference for corporations that prioritize maximizing value and adopt a shareholder capitalism approach over ESG and stakeholder capitalism.
While the firm’s anti-activist stance may attract some clients, a large part of its success can be attributed to its co-founder, Vivek Ramaswamy. At 38 years old, Ramaswamy has made a name for himself and has been gaining recognition as a presidential candidate. Despite polling at just over 8% and trailing behind Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, Ramaswamy’s fund has experienced substantial growth. By June, Strive’s assets under management reached $750 million and, within months, crossed the remarkable billion-dollar mark.
“It is a rare feat for any indie issuer to hit $1 billion in the first year, let alone one that is largely a pushback to ESG as many of those ETFs have flopped. Ramaswamy’s wealthy backers helped a lot, and running for president probably can’t hurt either. That is some uncharted territory when it comes to ETF marketing.” – Bloomberg Intelligence Senior ETF Analyst Eric Balchunas
Using “Anti-Woke” Strive as a Launchpad for Ramaswamy’s Presidential Campaign
Criticism of sustainable investing is not new, but it has gained renewed traction in recent years. Even Larry Fink, renowned for his purpose-driven investment approach at BlackRock, has distanced himself from the term ESG. Only 27 funds actively promote an anti-ESG strategy, and most are relatively young, with just two years of existence. Ramaswamy’s fund, launched in 2022, is supported by billionaire investors Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, adding to its success despite legal issues involving former employees’ mistreatment claims and allegations of securities law violations.
According to Christopher Lenzo, a lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a former sales and distribution partner of Strive, “Strive was founded largely as a PR mechanism for the presidential campaign of Ramaswamy. Not a lot of thought was given to running it as an investment firm.”
Strive’s Hype: A Slowdown in Momentum
While Strive’s first fund, the Strive US Energy ETF, attracted $300 million in just three weeks, accounting for over 80% of the $377 million total inflows into anti-ESG funds in the third quarter of 2022, the second fund, Strive 500 ETF STRV, only gathered $33 million in its first month. This slowdown has continued over the past few months, with an average monthly influx of less than $5 million.
Before Strive: Ramaswamy’s Journey as a Biotech Entrepreneur
Ramaswamy’s journey in the hedge fund world began after his success as a biotech entrepreneur. In 2014, he founded Roivant Sciences, a biotech company. Initially, the company experienced success, but a failed clinical trial of an Alzheimer’s drug caused its rapid decline. Since then, Roivant Sciences has diversified its range of drugs.
Recently, Roivant Sciences has distanced itself from Ramaswamy after he made controversial statements about the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling it “corrupt” and suggesting it should be reformed. Matt Gline, Roivant CEO, clarified that Ramaswamy’s views on the FDA differ from his own and the company’s stance.
Prior to beginning his presidential campaign, Ramaswamy sold 4 million shares of Roivant, earning $32 million in cash value. He still retains ownership of over 54 million shares.
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