Trump media deal suffers blow as SPAC fails to win extension

The Truth social network logo is seen on a smartphone in front of a display of former U.S. President Donald Trump in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2022. (REUTERS)
The Truth social network logo is seen on a smartphone in front of a display of former U.S. President Donald Trump in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 September 2022

Trump media deal suffers blow as SPAC fails to win extension

Trump media deal suffers blow as SPAC fails to win extension
  • Digital World needs 65 percent of its shareholders to vote in favor of the proposal, but the support as of late Monday fell far short, Reuters reported

WASHINGTON: The blank-check acquisition firm that agreed to merge with former US President Donald Trump’s social media company failed on Tuesday to secure enough shareholder support for a one-year extension to complete the deal.
At stake is a $1.3 billion cash infusion that Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), which operates the Truth Social app, stands to receive from Digital World Acquisition Corp, the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that inked a deal in October to take TMTG public.
The transaction has been on ice amid civil and criminal probes into the circumstances around the deal. Digital World had been hoping that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is reviewing its disclosures on the deal, would have given its blessing by now.
Digital World Chief Executive Patrick Orlando told a special meeting of his shareholders on Tuesday he would push back to noon on Thursday the deadline for the vote on extending the life of the SPAC by 12 months.
Digital World needs 65 percent of its shareholders to vote in favor of the proposal, but the support as of late Monday fell far short, Reuters reported. Digital World did not disclose the margin on Tuesday.
Digital World shares ended trading in New York on Tuesday down 11.4 percent at $22.13.
Digital World is set to liquidate on Thursday and return the money raised in its September 2021 initial public offering to shareholders unless action is taken.
Digital World shareholders had been given more than two weeks to vote on the SPAC’s extension and it is unclear if two additional days will make a difference. Most Digital World shareholders are individuals and getting them to vote through their brokers has been challenging, Orlando said last week.
Digital World said in a statement that if its shareholders do not approve the one-year extension on Thursday, its management plans to exercise its right to extend the life of the SPAC by three months unilaterally. The SPAC managers will lend $2.875 million to the SPAC as part of the arrangement, Digital World said.
The SPAC managers have the right to unilaterally extend the life of the SPAC one more time, till March. It is unclear whether this would provide enough time for regulators to reach a conclusion on whether to allow the deal to proceed.
A TMTG spokesperson said the company will continue cooperating with all stakeholders on the merger and that it hoped “the SEC staff will expeditiously conclude its review free from political interference.”
An SEC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump appeared to manage expectations for the deal with a post over the weekend on Truth Social: “I don’t need financing, ‘I’m really rich!’ Private company anyone???“
Digital World has disclosed that the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and federal prosecutors have been investigating the deal with TMTG, though the exact scope of the probes is unclear.
The information sought by regulators includes Digital World documents on due diligence of potential targets other than TMTG, relationships between Digital World and other entities, meetings of Digital World’s board, policies and procedures relating to trading, and the identities of certain investors, Digital World has said.

PIPE AT RISK
If the deal is completed, TMTG would receive $293 million that Digital World has on hand plus $1 billion committed from a group of investors in the form of a private investment in public equity (PIPE).
The PIPE is scheduled to expire on Sept. 20 unless the deal is completed. Investment bankers for Digital World have been reaching out to investors in the last few weeks to gauge their interest in extending the PIPE, a person familiar with the matter said.
It is unclear how TMTG is getting by without access to Digital World’s funding. It raised $22.6 million through convertible promissory notes last year and another $15.4 million through bridge financing in the first quarter. The agreement with Digital World caps the indebtedness that TMTG can assume prior to the deal closing at $50 million.
Digital World has said it believes TMTG will have “sufficient funds” until April 2023. TMTG said last week that Truth Social is “on strong financial footing” and would begin running advertisements soon.
Trump started using Truth Social in April, two months after it launched on Apple Inc’s app store. He has more than 4 million followers — a fraction of the 89 million he had on Twitter Inc. before he was banned over his role in the January 2021 US Capitol riots by thousands of his supporters.

 


Pakistan blocks Wikipedia over ‘blasphemous content’

A police officer stands guard as people take part in Friday prayers at a mosque, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
A police officer stands guard as people take part in Friday prayers at a mosque, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
Updated 7 sec ago

Pakistan blocks Wikipedia over ‘blasphemous content’

A police officer stands guard as people take part in Friday prayers at a mosque, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation — the non-profit fund managing Wikipedia — said the block “denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository”

ISLAMABAD: Wikipedia was blocked in Pakistan on Saturday after authorities censored the website for hosting “blasphemous content” in the latest blow to digital rights in the deeply conservative nation.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and social media giants Facebook and YouTube have previously been banned for publishing content deemed sacrilegious.
The online encyclopedia had been blocked across the country on Friday “after it failed to respond to our repeated correspondence over removal of the blasphemous content and meet the deadline,” Malahat Obaid, a spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, told AFP on Saturday.
The PTA had earlier in the week given Wikipedia a 48 hour ultimatum to remove material, without publically specifying its exact objections.
“They did remove some of the material but not all,” Obaid said. “It will remain blocked until they remove all the objectionable material.”
An AFP reporter in Pakistan was not able to access the site from a mobile phone on Saturday.
The Wikimedia Foundation — the non-profit fund managing Wikipedia — said the block “denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository.”
“If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s knowledge, history, and culture,” a statement said.
Free speech campaigners have highlighted what they say is a pattern of rising government censorship of Pakistan’s printed and electronic media.
“There’s just been a concerted effort to exert greater control over content on the Internet,” said digital rights activist Usama Khilji.
“The main purpose is to silence any dissent,” he told AFP. “A lot of times blasphemy is weaponized for that purpose.”
Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it carried a film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.
In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok several times over “indecent” and “immoral” content.

 


Tesla’s Elon Musk found not liable in trial over 2018 ‘funding secured’ tweets

Tesla’s Elon Musk found not liable in trial over 2018 ‘funding secured’ tweets
Updated 30 min 50 sec ago

Tesla’s Elon Musk found not liable in trial over 2018 ‘funding secured’ tweets

Tesla’s Elon Musk found not liable in trial over 2018 ‘funding secured’ tweets
  • Tesla shareholders claimed Musk misled them when he tweeted on Aug. 7, 2018, that he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share
  • Shares of Tesla rose 1.6 percent in after-hours trading following the verdict and Musk tweeted that "he wisdom of the people has prevailed"

SAN FRANCISCO: A US jury on Friday found Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk and his company were not liable for misleading investors when Musk tweeted in 2018 that he had “funding secured” to take the electric car company private.
Plaintiffs had claimed billions in damages and the decision also had been seen as important for Musk himself, who often takes to Twitter to air his views.
The jury came back with a unanimous verdict roughly two hours after beginning deliberations.
Musk was not present in court when the verdict was read but soon tweeted that he was “deeply appreciative” of the jury’s decision.
“Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed,” he said.
Nicholas Porritt, a lawyer for the investors, said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the verdict and are considering next steps.”
Shares of Tesla rose 1.6 percent in after-hours trading following the verdict.
“A dark chapter is now closed for Musk and Tesla,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said. Ives added that some Tesla investors feared Musk might have to sell more Tesla stock if he lost.
The world’s second-richest person has previously created legal and regulatory headaches through his sometimes impulsive use of Twitter, the social media company he bought for $44 billion in October.
Minor Myers, who teaches corporate law at the University of Connecticut and who had previously called the investors’ case strong, called the outcome “astounding.”
The US anti-securities fraud law “has always been thought to be this great bulwark against misstatements and falsehoods,” he said. “This outcome makes you wonder if it is up to the job in modern markets,” he said, adding that Musk himself was likely to “double down” on his communication tactics after the verdict.
Musk’s attention has been divided in recent months between Tesla, his rocket company SpaceX and now Twitter. Tesla investors have expressed concerns that running the social media company has taken up too much of his focus.
’Bad word choice’
Tesla shareholders claimed Musk misled them when he tweeted on Aug. 7, 2018, that he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share, a premium of about 23 percent to the prior day’s close, and had “funding secured.”
They say Musk lied when he tweeted later that day that “investor support is confirmed.”
The stock price soared after the tweets and then fell again after Aug. 17, 2018, as it became clear the buyout would not happen.
Porritt during closing arguments said the billionaire CEO is not above the law, and should be held liable for the tweets.
“This case ultimately is about whether rules that apply to everyone else should also apply to Elon Musk,” he said.
Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro countered that Musk’s “funding secured” tweet was “technically inaccurate” but that investors only cared that Musk was considering a buyout.
“The whole case is built on bad word choice,” he said. “Who cares about bad word choice?“
“Just because it’s a bad tweet doesn’t make it fraud,” Spiro said during closing arguments.
An economist hired by the shareholders had calculated investor losses as high as $12 billion.
During the three-week trial, Musk spent nearly nine hours on the witness stand, telling jurors he believed the tweets were truthful. 
Musk later testified that he believed he could have sold enough shares of his rocket company SpaceX to fund a buyout, and “felt funding was secured” with SpaceX stock alone.
Musk testified that he made the tweets in order to put small shareholders on the same footing as large investors who knew about the deal. But he acknowledged he lacked formal commitments from potential backers.
The verdict is another victory for Musk and his lawyer Spiro after they won a defamation lawsuit against the billionaire in 2019 over his tweet calling a cave explorer a “pedo guy.” 


How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market
Updated 05 February 2023

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market
  • Andrew Borne, Sean Trainor highlight challenges of retaining talents and opportunities for the industry

LONDON: Newly formed communications advisory firm Salient, which launched in Riyadh earlier in the week, is committed to forming the next generation of Saudi industry leaders looking to pursue a career in the communications industry.

“Our fresh, innovative approach to communications is the perfect learning environment for nurturing Saudi talents to become global communications consultants,” Salient General Manager Osamah Al-Qusayer told Arab News.

The company, which was founded by industry veterans Andrew Borne and Sean Trainor, specializes in corporate reputation and organizational culture management and offers a range of services including mentoring, coaching, training and consultations.

Recent years have seen a surge in the growth of the communications sector in Saudi Arabia, with many international and boutique agencies, as well as local communications companies, entering the market.

But with this growth comes the challenge of a shortage of local Saudi talents, who often lack the experience and knowledge required for communications work.

The biggest challenge facing the communications market in Saudi Arabia is the search for talent, the pair explained.

“This is where our new agency comes in, with a unique approach to tackling this challenge and creating opportunities for local talents,” Trainor said.

Borne and Trainor, two former employees of public relations firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, decided to start their own agency with the goal of empowering young Saudis with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the communications field.

However, after several years of working in the Kingdom, the pair realized that, while the Saudi market provided a large pool of young communications professionals to invest in, maintaining those talents presented a number of obstacles.

“After years of investment, many of these young talents often leave for higher paying jobs or are attracted by the idea of working for big international agencies like Hill and Knowlton, creating a vicious cycle,” Trainor explained.

Seeking to address the issue and turn challenges into opportunities, Salient aims to attract young Saudis by offering employees shares of the firm and a progressive company culture that values talents and allows them to tell their own stories.

“We see an opportunity to create a talent pool that would stay in the game, have skin in the game,” Trainor continued.

“We believe we can establish our own agency with a vision that Saudis can own and build and that focuses primarily on Saudi, and in the long term create a great brand that can stand on its own and service the local market, potentially exporting to the rest of the world.”

Borne and Trainor explained that Salient’s approach is guided by the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. The country’s transformative moment provides an exciting chance for the industry to construct a narrative and enable Saudi organizations to tell their own stories and take the lead on the world stage, they said.

“Good, bad or indifferent, everybody has an opinion about the nation. And for a person in communications, that is a gift because there is nothing we like better than a good, honest discussion to really help people understand what is going on,” Borne explained.

“If you do not tell your story, somebody else will, and they will invariably get it wrong.”

The pair agreed that much international criticism of Saudi Arabia is generated by a lack of “true understanding” of the country, often caused by “big headlines and bad PR campaigns,” and stressed the importance of tackling the gap between perception and reality when it comes to the international reputation.

Borne and Trainor explained that Salient recognizes the importance of communications in bridging this gap and promoting a better understanding of the country and its people.

“By having locals tell their own story, they can help change the perceptions and attitudes toward Saudi Arabia,” Borne said.

 


Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Updated 04 February 2023

Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
  • Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared

BAGHDAD: The death of a young YouTube star at the hands of her father has sparked outrage in Iraq, where so-called “honor killings” continue to take place in the conservative country.
Tiba Al-Ali, 22, was killed by her father on January 31 in the southern province of Diwaniya, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Twitter on Friday.
Police had attempted to mediate between Ali — who resided in Turkiye and was visiting Iraq — and her relatives to “resolve the family dispute in a definitive manner,” Maan said.
Unverified recordings of conversations between Ali and her father appeared to indicate that he was unhappy about her decision to live alone in Turkiye.
Maan said that after the police’s initial encounter with the family “we were surprised the next day... with the news of her killing at the hands of her father, as he admitted in his initial confessions.”
He did not give further details on the nature of the dispute.
Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared.
A police source speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity meanwhile confirmed that the “family dispute” dated back to 2015.
She had traveled to Turkiye with her family in 2017, but upon their return, she refused to join them, choosing instead to stay in Turkiye where she resided since, the police source said.
Her death has sparked uproar among Iraqis on social media, who have called for protests in Baghdad on Sunday to demand justice in response to her death.
“Women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrents and government measures — which currently are not commensurate with the size of domestic violence crimes,” wrote veteran politician Ala Talabani on Twitter.
Human rights defender Hanaa Edwar told AFP that, according to voice recordings attributed to the young woman, “she left her family... because she was sexually assaulted by her brother.”
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights too reported the allegation. AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recordings.
Amnesty International condemned the “horrific” killing, saying “the Iraqi penal code still treats leniently so called ‘honor crimes’ comprising violent acts such as assault and even murder.”
“Until the Iraqi authorities adopt robust legislation to protect women and girls... we will inevitably continue to witness horrific murders,” Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, said.

 


MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
Updated 03 February 2023

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
  • She replaces Peter Smith, who stepped down last week
  • Wayne brings ‘wealth of international expertise,’ group CEO Sam Barnett says

LONDON: MBC Group on Friday announced the appointment of Christina Wayne as the new managing director of its production arm, MBC Studios.

Group CEO Sam Barnett said the company was “incredibly excited” by the appointment.

“Christina brings with her a wealth of international expertise in content development and production where she has worked across a multitude of territories and languages, and led on the development of Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning series,” he said.

“We look forward to her building on the team’s successes as we continue to expand our horizons in international content even further.”

Wayne is a seasoned executive and producer with more than 25 years of international experience writing, directing and producing TV shows and films.

Before joining MBC Studios, she was principal creative executive and head of Canada and Australia at Amazon Studios, a position she had held since 2019.

A member of the Writers Guild of America since 1997, Wayne has also held positions with Assembly Entertainment, Cineflix Studios and AMC, and worked on a host of award-winning productions, including “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Broken Trail.”

“I am absolutely delighted to join MBC Group and MBC Studios and have heard great things about the incredible team Peter and the rest of MBC have built,” she said.

“This is a very exciting venture for me, and I cannot wait to get fully involved in one of the world’s most exciting territories for content production.”

Wayne takes over from Peter Smith, who stepped down last week after four years at the helm of MBC Studios. During that time he helped launch the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC and led numerous flagship Arabic-language productions.

Building on Smith’s legacy, Wayne will continue to push into premium non-English-language TV programming and broaden the reach of MBC Group’s content to consumers worldwide.