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Who could buy TikTok? These are the people who could acquire the app

The House passed a bill Wednesday that could ban TikTok if the app isn’t sold to an American company.
Steven Mnuchin; Kevin O'Leary
Steven Mnuchin and Kevin O'Leary.Getty Images

Interested TikTok buyers are beginning to circle after the House passed a bill Wednesday that could force a sale of, or ban, the app if signed into law.

The Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act passed 352-65. Lawmakers expressed concerns that the Chinese government could use TikTok to spread misinformation and manipulate American users. Many emphasized that they were not trying to ban TikTok outright, although many of the app’s 170 million American users were not convinced

If the Senate passes the bill and President Joe Biden signs it into law, ByteDance, TikTok's China-based parent company, would have to sell the app to an American company within six months. Otherwise, TikTok could be banned in the U.S.

While some critics have said that the timeline is unrealistic, some high-profile investors have expressed interest in acquiring the app. Here are the potential buyers so far in a possible TikTok sale — and a primer on companies that have previously tried.

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin, an investment banker who served as treasury secretary under President Donald Trump, said he was getting a group of investors together to potentially buy TikTok, although he did not specify who. He also did not share a potential valuation for the app.

“I think the legislation should pass and I think it should be sold,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “This needs to be controlled by U.S. business.”

Mnuchin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Rumble, an online video platform that is popular among conservatives, shared a statement from its CEO, Chris Pavlovski, on X on Tuesday. Pavlovski addressed TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and offered to “join a consortium with other parties seeking to acquire and operate TikTok inside the United States.” It’s unclear which “other parties” would be involved in the acquisition.

In January, Wired reported that Rumble was part of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a statement to the publication, Rumble spokesperson Rory Rumore said the company voluntarily responded to an SEC request for documents and advised people to avoid “jumping to false conclusions about matters related to Rumble.” 

In February, Pavlovski published a letter to X he said was from the SEC saying that the investigation had concluded and that the agency was not planning on taking any enforcement action against the company.

When asked for comment on a potential TikTok acquisition and the SEC investigation, a Rumble spokesperson referred NBC News to Pavlovski's previous statements on the issues posted to X.

Rumble has high-profile investors including Peter Thiel and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.

Former Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick

Bobby Kotick stepped down from his role at Activision Blizzard in December. Now, he is purportedly seeking partners to join him in a potential acquisition of TikTok, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources. The publication reported that Kotick has expressed his interest in buying TikTok to ByteDance co-founder Zhang Yiming and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

NBC News has not independently verified Kotick’s interest in TikTok. Kotick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kevin O’Leary 

“Shark Tank” investor and businessman Kevin O’Leary said in an interview with Fox News that TikTok is “not going to get banned 'cause I’m going to buy it.”

O’Leary posted the interview to his own TikTok account. He also said Meta and Google won’t buy the app, citing regulatory concerns.

“A syndicate will be formed. I’d like to be involved, obviously,” he said.

O’Leary said he believes that Chinese investors should keep 20% of the new company and that it should have an American CEO and board and American servers. New American TikTok data has been stored in Austin, Texas-based Oracle’s cloud infrastructure as of 2022.

O’Leary said that TikTok is “worth billions.” He called it “one of the most successful advertising platforms in social media today.” 

Representatives for O’Leary did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Previously interested buyers

During previous attempts by the U.S. government to force a sale of TikTok, other companies were reportedly in talks with ByteDance to acquire the app’s U.S. operations.

When Trump threatened to ban the app in 2020, Microsoft said it was “committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” according to an NBC News report at the time. The report also said that Microsoft would buy TikTok operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand as part of the deal. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The deal ultimately fell through as Oracle was selected to potentially oversee TikTok’s U.S. operations and user data. NBC News previously reported that Oracle would have operational control over the app in the U.S. while ByteDance would retain majority ownership over TikTok. Walmart then joined Oracle in offering to invest in TikTok. But the sale was put on hold when the Biden administration took over. Neither Oracle nor Walmart immediately responded to a request for comment.

Oracle has hosted American TikTok data on its servers since 2022.