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US billionaire Frank McCourt says he’s readying bid to buy TikTok

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Billionaire businessman and real estate mogul Frank McCourt said he is putting together a consortium to purchase TikTok’s US business, adding to the number of investors hoping to benefit from a new federal law that requires TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the popular platform or face a ban.

The announcement, made on Wednesday, said the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was organising the bid in consultation with the investment bank Guggenheim Securities and “with the goal of placing people and data empowerment at the centre of the platform’s design and purpose”.

If a sale occurs, McCourt said he would plan to restructure TikTok and give more agency to people “over their digital identities and data” by migrating the platform to an open-source protocol that allows for more transparency.

Other investors, including former US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have expressed a desire to purchase TikTok. However, parent company ByteDance has already said it does not plan to sell the platform.

The Chinese government is also unlikely to approve a sale – especially not one that includes the recommendation engine that powers the videos that populates users’ feeds.

US businessman Frank McCourt looks is seen in October 2016. Photo: AP

Last week, ByteDance and TikTok filed a lawsuit against the US government to block the law from going into effect. On Tuesday, eight TikTok creators filed their own challenge, arguing the law violates their First Amendment rights to free speech.

The company also has been waging a legal battle in Montana to block a state law that would ban the video-sharing platform.

On Tuesday, TikTok, Montana users and the state of Montana agreed to put a stay on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s first-in-the-nation ban while the federal lawsuits are decided.

Montana’s law, which was temporarily blocked before it could take effect on January 1, would be nullified if a company that is not based in a country designated as a foreign adversary acquires TikTok.

McCourt is worth US$1.4 billion, according to Forbes. He sold the Dodgers for US$2 billion in 2012 to Guggenheim Baseball Management. In 2016, he bought the French soccer club Marseille.

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