Former US president Donald Trump waves at supporters in New York on October 18 2021. Picture:JEENAH MOON/REUTERS
Former US president Donald Trump waves at supporters in New York on October 18 2021. Picture:JEENAH MOON/REUTERS

From a WeWork office in Miami, an obscure financier by the name of Patrick Orlando has become an unlikely power behind what is, for a meme-stock minute, the ultimate Make America Great Again (maga) stock: the nascent media company of former US president Donald Trump.

Orlando’s firm is set to be the money behind Trump Media and Technology Group, the former president’s attempt to fight back against Big Tech. Trump says he plans to start with a social network called Truth Social but has broader ambitions to create a conglomerate — with news, streaming and technology businesses to compete with CNN and Disney+. 

The company will go public through a merger with Orlando’s Digital World Acquisition, and if all goes according to plan, it’ll happen before the 2022 midterm elections, enabling Trump to reach millions of supporters after he was kicked off Twitter and Facebook for inciting insurrection in the Capitol. 

The head-snapping news that Trump was seeking to launch his own platform via a special purpose acquisition company (spac) sent Digital World’s shares soaring, driven by retail investors piling in. The stock rose more than 350% on Thursday, giving it a $1.8bn valuation. 

Whether Trump can successfully pull off his next business venture was, for the moment, almost beside the point. The surge represented the convergence of two powerful forces — one financial, the other political — in a markets-meet-social-media craze akin to the wild run in GameStop earlier this year.

The deal brings together an unlikely cast of characters. 

Orlando, a former Deutsche Bank derivatives trader, started banking firm Benessere Capital almost a decade ago. He’s also cofounded a sugar-trading company and worked for a sugar processor. 

Most recently he’s embraced blank check companies. Orlando is also the CEO of Yunhong International, a spac incorporated in the Cayman Islands and whose offices are in Wuhan, China. Yunhong raised $60m in 2020 and was meant to merge with battery manufacturer Giga Carbon Neutrality, but the deal was scrapped in September.

Orlando didn’t reply to calls and an email asking for comment.

Digital World raised $293m in September from a group of hedge funds including DE Shaw, Saba Capital Management, Highbridge Capital Management and Palm Beach, Florida-based Lighthouse Investment Partners. 

Unlike most spacs, it doesn’t have PIPE investors, or private investment in public equity. They buttress spac mergers by helping enable a deal to go through even when early investors decide to redeem their shares. 

Digital World’s board is light with people with media expertise. 

Its CFO is Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Braganca, a member of Brazil’s national congress. He’s frequently referred to as a “prince” because of his claim to the defunct Brazilian throne as a descendant of Emperor Pedro II. Braganca, who’s called for a return to the monarchy in Brazil, has worked as a director for Time Warner’s AOL Latin America division.

“This new platform will fight the tyranny of Bigtechs,” Braganca said in an Instagram post that included a photo of himself and Trump.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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