A US health and technology entrepreneur has raised $ 20m (£ 16.2m) to launch an “anti-woke” investment fund that will urge companies to focus on making money rather than championing political causes.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the author of Woke Inc who made his fortune investing in pharmaceutical companies, has won the backing of hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel to launch the new venture, which is called Strive.
Mr Ramaswamy said Strive will only invest in companies that focus on maximizing profits and shun those that espouse political beliefs.
The 36-year-old called his approach “excellence capitalism”, saying companies should only be concerned with making money, and hit out at the creeping liberalism from what he dubbed the “ideological cartel” of BlackRock, Vanguard and other major money managers.
Mr Ramaswamy told the Wall Street Journal: “We will tell oil companies to be excellent oil companies and coal companies to be excellent coal companies and solar companies to be excellent solar companies.”
BlackRock’s chief executive Larry Fink has previously hit back at accusations that the giant investment has become a “woke”.
In January he said: “Stakeholder capitalism is not politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke’. It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers and communities your company relies on to prosper. ”
It came after conservative groups criticized BlackRock, which manages more than $ 10 trillion in assets, for its “woke posturing” to hide the funnelling of money to Chinese companies through its investment funds.
Mr Ramaswamy said he “naturally took the next step” to launch his own fund after the Manhattan Institute invited him and Mr Fink to debate stakeholder capitalism in 2020 and Mr Fink declined.
He wrote on Twitter: “Now the market can decide for itself.”
Other fund managers have expressed concerns that corporate giants are increasingly focusing on contentious political issues over delivering returns for their shareholders.
Consumer goods giant Unilever has previously come under fire for its focus on the company’s “external impact and purpose”.
In January, one of Britain’s best-known fund managers attacked Unilever for its “ludicrous” focus on sustainability, adding that the company had “lost the plot” with efforts to “define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise”
Terry Smith said “the most obvious manifestation” of this was how Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s ice cream refused to supply the West Bank.
In July last year, Ben & Jerry’s said it was inconsistent with its values for the product to be sold in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, sparking a backlash from the Israeli government.