Kanye West to Buy Parler, a Libertarian Social-Media Platform, Company Says
Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies, says it agreed to a deal in principle with the entertainer for undisclosed terms
Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies, says it agreed to a deal in principle with the entertainer for undisclosed terms
Parler says Kanye West has agreed to buy the libertarian-leaning social network popular with conservatives, the rapper’s latest foray into the debate around free speech.
Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies Inc., said Monday it had entered into an agreement in principle with Mr. West, who now legally goes by Ye, to buy the platform.
Financial terms of the deal, which is expected to be completed later this year, weren’t disclosed.
“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Mr. West said in the press release disclosed by Parlement Technologies.
Mr. West didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment beyond the press release.
The Parler deal is the latest in a series of moves by right-leaning individuals toward the building of an alternative social media universe for free-speech proponents. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person, has been in a prolonged back-and-forth to potentially buy Twitter Inc., in part so he could loosen its moderation controls. In June he told the company’s employees that people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things on the platform as long as it’s within the law.
Former President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot, launched his own social network called Truth Social in February. And in May, video platform Rumble said it was expecting an investment from a group of prominent conservative venture capitalists including Peter Thiel and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance.
Launched in 2018, Parler has attracted millions of users by pitching itself as “free speech Twitter alternative.” Several of its users had been banned by other large social networks, including Alex Jones, the far-right talk-show host and conspiracy theorist, and supporters of the Proud Boys.
George Farmer, chief executive at Parlement Technologies, said the deal will “change the way the world thinks about free speech.”
The deal comes as Mr. West has been enmeshed in controversy over his public messaging and social media.
In an interview, Mr. Farmer said discussions with Mr. West about a Parler deal began casually when his wife Candace Owens, an American conservative author and commentator, attended Mr. West’s fashion show in Paris.
Both Mr. West and Ms. Owens wore “White Lives Matter” shirts at the event.
The phrase, an inversion of “Black Lives Matter”—the movement that, among other things, aims to restrict police use of force and transfer police funding to other services—is often used by white supremacist groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Ms. Owens had a conversation with Mr. West about the social-media landscape and the notion of Mr. West buying Parler evolved from there, Mr. Farmer said.
Mr. West has also been critical of major Silicon Valley social-media companies. Earlier this month, Twitter Inc. locked his account after the musician and designer posted an anti-Semitic tweet.
Mr. West’s Instagram account has also been locked over a post that violated company policy, according to a spokesperson for Instagram parent Meta Platforms Inc. Both Twitter and Instagram have policies that prohibit the posting of offensive language, among other restrictions.
Buying Parler was “a very attractive solution to his issues of being censored,” Mr. Farmer said.
Mr. West’s corporate sponsorships also have recently been scrutinised. Adidas AG said it decided to place its partnership with Mr. West under review, putting in doubt an arrangement that has produced the popular Yeezy collection of sneakers.
Last month, Gap Inc. said it was winding down its partnership with Mr. West, saying he and the company were “not aligned” in how they work together, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
For Parler, the platform faced backlash in 2021 for serving as a hub for people alleged to have organised the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and participated in it.
Afterward, Apple Inc. and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. removed Parler from their mobile-app stores, and Amazon.com Inc. stopped providing Parler with web-hosting services, forcing it offline for weeks. The major tech companies said Parler had broken their rules by failing to have an adequate content-moderation system in place.
Parler sued Amazon in Seattle federal court, alleging that Amazon Web Services kicked the company off its cloud servers for political and anticompetitive reasons. The company said Parler was suspended for not removing violent content that violated AWS’s terms of service. The case is ongoing.
Parler resumed operations online by signing up with a different cloud provider. It was reinstated on the App Store in May 2021 after agreeing to add technology to detect violent content or incitements to violence. It returned to Google Play last month after agreeing to modify some of its content-moderation policies and enforcement.
As of Oct. 16, Parler has been downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores 8.5 million times globally since its launch, with 6.2 million downloads in the U.S., according to analytics firm data.ai.
In the first half of the year, Parler averaged about 983,000 monthly active users globally, down from 6 million in the first half of 2021, the firm’s data show.
A study earlier this month found that fewer than one-in-10 Americans read alternative social-media sites for news, according to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan D.C.-based think tank. The study included a survey of U.S. adults along with an audit of BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Parler, Rumble, Telegram and Truth Social.
About 6% of Americans get news from at least one of the seven sites mentioned, and no single site is used for news by more than 2% of U.S. adults, the study said. Parler is the best known of the seven sites named in the survey, with 38% of U.S. adults saying they were familiar with it.
While many users cite free speech when turning to sites like Parler, Dr. Shannon McGregor, an assistant professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who studies social media, said Mr. West and other public figures might have different motivations for purchasing these platforms.
“I think all three of these cases—Elon and Twitter, Trump with Truth Social and Kanye with Parler—are fundamentally about driving media attention to themselves and having a vehicle to do so,” she said.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Parlement will continue to provide Parler with web-hosting and other services. The company recently completed a fundraising round for $16 million, bringing the total amount raised to $56 million. Parlement also recently acquired Dynascale Inc., a provider of cloud services with around 50,000 square feet of data centre space in the U.S.
Mr. Farmer said the deal “further advances the goal of Parlement becoming the plumbing of the internet.”
—Ginger Adams Otis contributed to this article.
Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual
Equities are often seen as expensive after promising start to 2023
A new trading year kicked off just weeks ago. Already it bears little resemblance to the carnage of 2022.
After languishing throughout last year, growth stocks have zoomed higher. Tesla Inc. and Nvidia Corp., for example, have jumped more than 30%. The outlook for bonds is brightening after a historic rout. Even bitcoin has rallied, despite ongoing effects from the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX.
The rebound has been driven by renewed optimism about the global economic outlook. Investors have embraced signs that inflation has peaked in the U.S. and abroad. Many are hoping that next week the Federal Reserve will slow its pace of interest-rate increases yet again. China’s lifting of Covid-19 restrictions pleasantly surprised many traders who have welcomed the move as a sign that more growth is ahead.
Still, risks loom large. Many investors aren’t convinced that the rebound is sustainable. Some are worried about stretched stock valuations, or whether corporate earnings will face more pain down the road. Others are fretting that markets aren’t fully pricing in the possibility of a recession, or what might happen if the Fed continues to fight inflation longer than currently anticipated.
We asked five investors to share how they are positioning for that uncertainty and where they think markets could be headed next. Here is what they said:
Cliff Asness, founder of AQR Capital Management, acknowledges that he wasn’t expecting the run in speculative stocks and digital currencies that has swept markets to kick off 2023.
Bitcoin prices have jumped around 40%. Some of the stocks that are the most heavily bet against on Wall Street are sitting on double-digit gains. Carvana Co. has soared nearly 64%, while MicroStrategy Inc. has surged more than 80%. Cathie Wood‘s ARK Innovation ETF has gained about 29%.
If the past few years have taught Mr. Asness anything, it is to be prepared for such run-ups to last much longer than expected. His lesson from the euphoria regarding risky trades in 2020 and 2021? Don’t count out the chance that the frenzy will return again, he said.
“It could be that there are still these crazy animal spirits out there,” Mr. Asness said.
Still, he said that hasn’t changed his conviction that cheaper stocks in the market, known as value stocks, are bound to keep soaring past their peers. There might be short spurts of outperformance for more-expensive slices of the market, as seen in January. But over the long term, he is sticking to his bet that value stocks will beat growth stocks. He is expecting a volatile, but profitable, stretch for the trade.
“I love the value trade,” Mr. Asness said. “We sing about it to our clients.”
For Richard Benson, co-chief investment officer of Millennium Global Investments Ltd., no single trade was more important last year than the blistering rise of the U.S. dollar.
Once a relatively placid area of markets following the 2008 financial crisis, currencies have found renewed focus from Wall Street and Main Street. Last year the dollar’s unrelenting rise dented multinational companies’ profits, exacerbated inflation for countries that import American goods and repeatedly surprised some traders who believed the greenback couldn’t keep rallying so fast.
The factors that spurred the dollar’s rise are now contributing to its fall. Ebbing inflation and expectations of slower interest-rate increases from the Fed have sent the dollar down 1.7% this year, as measured by the WSJ Dollar Index.
Mr. Benson is betting more pain for the dollar is ahead and sees the greenback weakening between 3% and 5% over the next three to six months.
“When the biggest central bank in the world is on the move, look at everything through their lens and don’t get distracted,” said Mr. Benson of the London-based currency fund manager, regarding the Fed.
This year Mr. Benson expects the dollar’s fall to ripple similarly far and wide across global economies and markets.
“I don’t see many people complaining about a weaker dollar” over the next few months, he said. “If the dollar is falling, that economic setup should also mean that tech stocks should do quite well.”
Mr. Benson said he expects the dollar’s fall to brighten the outlook for some emerging- market assets, and he is betting on China’s offshore yuan as the country’s economy reopens. He sees the euro strengthening versus the dollar if the eurozone’s economy continues to fare better than expected.
Even after the S&P 500 fell 15% from its record high reached in January 2022, U.S. stocks still look expensive, said Rupal Bhansali, chief investment officer of Ariel Investments, who oversees $6.7 billion in assets.
Of course, the market doesn’t appear as frothy as it did for much of 2020 and 2021, but she said she expects a steeper correction in prices ahead.
The broad stock-market gauge recently traded at 17.9 times its projected earnings over the next 12 months, according to FactSet. That is below the high of around 24 hit in late 2020, but above the historical average over the past 20 years of 15.7, FactSet data show.
“The old habit was buy the dip,” Ms. Bhansali said. “The new habit should be sell the rip.”
One reason Ms. Bhansali said the selloff might not be over yet? The market is still underestimating the Fed.
Investors repeatedly mispriced how fast the Fed would move in 2022, wrongly expecting the central bank to ease up on its rate increases. They were caught off guard by Fed Chair Jerome Powell‘s aggressive messages on interest rates. It stoked steep selloffs in the stock market, leading to the most turbulent year since the 2008 financial crisis. Now investors are making the same mistake again, Ms. Bhansali said.
Current stock valuations don’t reflect the big shift coming in central-bank policy, which she thinks will have to be more aggressive than many expect. Though broader measures of inflation have been falling, some slices, such as services inflation, have proved stickier. Ms. Bhansali is positioning for such areas as healthcare, which she thinks would be more insulated from a recession than the rest of the market, to outperform.
“The Fed is determined to win the war since they lost the battle,” Ms. Bhansali said.
Gone are the days when tumbling bond yields left investors with few alternatives to stocks. Finally, bonds are back, according to Niall O’Sullivan of Neuberger Berman, an investment manager overseeing about $427 billion in client assets at the end of 2022.
After a turbulent year for the fixed-income market in 2022, bonds have kicked off the new year on a more promising note. The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index—composed largely of U.S. Treasurys, highly rated corporate bonds and mortgage-backed securities—climbed 3% so far this year on a total return basis through Thursday’s close. That is the index’s best start to a year since it began in 1989, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Mr. O’Sullivan, the chief investment officer of multi asset strategies for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Neuberger Berman, said the single biggest conversation he is currently having with clients is how to increase fixed-income exposure.
“Strategically, the facts have changed. When you look at fixed income as an asset class…they’re now all providing yield, and possibly even more importantly, actual cash coupons of a meaningful size,” he said. “That is a very different world to the one we’ve been in for quite a long time.”
Mr. O’Sullivan said it is important to reconsider how much of an advantage stocks now hold over bonds, given what he believes are looming risks for the stock market. He predicts that inflation will be harder to wrangle than investors currently anticipate and that the Fed will hold its peak interest rate steady for longer than is currently expected. Even more worrying, he said, it will be harder for companies to continue passing on price increases to consumers, which means earnings could see bigger hits in the future.
“That is why we are wary on the equity side,” he said.
Among the products that Mr. O’Sullivan said he favours in the fixed-income space are higher-quality and shorter-term bonds. Still, he added, it is important for investors to find portfolio diversity outside bonds this year. For that, he said he views commodities as attractive, specifically metals such as copper, which could continue to benefit from China’s reopening.
Ramona Persaud, a portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, said she can still identify bargains in a pricey market by looking in less-sanguine places. Find the fear, and find the value, she said.
“When fear really rises, you can buy some very well-run businesses,” she said.
Take Taiwan’s semiconductor companies. Concern over global trade and tensions with China have weighed on the shares of chip makers based on the island. But those fears have led many investors to overlook the competitive advantages those companies hold over rivals, she said.
“That is a good setup,” said Ms. Persaud, who considers herself a conservative value investor and manages more than $20 billion across several U.S. and Canadian funds.
The S&P 500 is trading above fair value, she said, which means “there just isn’t widespread opportunity,” and investors might be underestimating some of the risks that lie in waiting.
“That tells me the market is optimistic,” said Ms. Persaud. “That would be OK if the risks were not exogenous.”
Those challenges, whether rising interest rates and Fed policy or Russia’s war in Ukraine and concern over energy-security concerns in Europe, are complicated, and in many cases, interrelated.
It isn’t all bad news, she said. China ended its zero-Covid restrictions. A milder winter in Europe has blunted the effects of the war in Ukraine on energy prices and helped the continent sidestep recession, and inflation is slowing.
“These are reasons the market is so happy,” she said.
The market is forced to confront the impact of COVID lockdowns.