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An outspoken critic of so-called “woke capitalism” is publicly urging corporate giants Apple and Disney to keep politics out of their businesses.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the founder of investment firm Strive Asset Management, demanded that Apple and Disney prioritize profits while avoiding political discourse that could tarnish their brands.
Strive has acquired stakes in each company since launching earlier this year with a mandate to challenge the corporate emphasis on environmental, social and governance standards, otherwise known as “ESG.”
Ramaswamy, who authored a best-selling book titled “Woke, Inc.” argued that Disney’s decision to wade into political debates, such as the kerfuffle over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, risked financial harm to shareholders with little to no benefit to the company’s bottom line.
“Disney must make clear that it will no longer take political stances on issues unrelated to its core business operations,” Ramaswamy wrote in the letter addressed to Disney CEO Bob Chapek. “The company must make clear that it will hold firm to this promise, and that it will not waver no matter how important a particular social cause is to Disney’s employees or its followers on Twitter.”
Ramaswamy cited an NBC News poll which showed Disney’s public approval rating plunged to 33% from 77% this year – a figure he described as an “unprecedented collapse following Disney’s public embrace of controversial political positions in deference to social activists.”
Disney’s public criticism from Florida’s Republican-backed law culminated in Gov. Ron DeSantis revoking the company’s special tax status within the state. Meanwhile, Disney employees from both sides of the political spectrum questioned the company’s response to the situation.
Strive’s letter to Disney urged company officials to create a “formal corporate policy” declaring the company would not take political positions unless the issue directly impacted its business interests.
“We regularly receive input from our shareholders, who hold a wide variety of viewpoints, and we listen to their perspectives,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement in response to the letter.
The note also asked the company to “publicly commit to political nondiscrimination” toward employees and customers and to make its decisions based on “the long-term profitability of Disney alone, without regard to social, cultural or political pressure from employees, activist groups or other stakeholders.
In a similar letter addressed to Apple Chairman Arthur Levinson and CEO Tim Cook, Ramaswamy called on the iPhone maker to nix a planned “racial equity audit” of its business practices. He added that Apple’s “hiring should be based on merit – not race, sex or politics.”
Ramaswamy noted that BlackRock, the asset management giant that holds a 6.4% stake in Apple, had backed calls for an audit. BlackRock has embraced ESG under CEO Larry Fink.
“We are concerned that over the last year, Apple has faced severe pressure from its large institutional ‘shareholders’ – including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager – to adopt value-destroying human resources policies that jeopardize Apple’s ability to hire top talent in the future,” he wrote.
Apple agreed to conduct a racial equity audit after shareholders voted in favor of the proposal earlier this year. Company executives initially resisted the audit, arguing their hiring plan “already fulfills the stated objective” of the audit.
The Post has reached out to BlackRock and Strive representatives for comment.
Apple declined to comment.
Ramaswamy’s Strive Asset Management drew financial backing from conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Pershing Square Capital boss Bill Ackman before its debut. The Ohio-based firm initially secured more than $20 million in funding from outside investors.
In a statement at the time, Ramaswamy argued Americans “want iconic American brands like Disney, Coca-Cola and Exxon, and US tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google to deliver high-quality products that improve our lives, not controversial political ideologies that divide us.”