A central figure in former US President Donald Trump’s attempt to create a new social media platform is a Brazilian parliamentarian and self-proclaimed prince who campaigned to restore elements of the monarchy that ended with the overthrow of Emperor Pedro II in 1889.
Luiz Philippe d’OrlÃ©ans-Braganza was elected to the Brazilian National Congress three years ago, and put forward the idea of ââcreating an unelected head of state with veto powers over decisions of the legislature. He is an essential ally of the Brazilian far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Media reports in Brazil often refer to OrlÃ©ans-Braganza simply as âO Principeâ, or âthe princeâ. His political identity relies heavily on ancestral ties to the last emperor of Brazil, who ascended to the throne at the age of five and reigned for more than half a century.
The royal title of Orleans-Braganza is however not mentioned in the securities deposits of the company where he exercises the functions of financial director: an acquisition company “by blank check” which agreed on Wednesday to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group. OrlÃ©ans-Bragance did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s deal with Digital World Acquisition Corporation could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for his social media startup. It could also create the conditions for a political resurrection.
The former president’s contribution to American public discourse has declined since January 6. Twitter and Facebook banned him from their platforms shortly after he cheered on the angry mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to reverse the 2020 election result.
Now he aims to launch his own platform, named Truth Social, “to resist the tyranny of Big Tech”.
“We live in a world where the Taliban have a big Twitter presence, but your favorite US president has been silenced,” Trump wrote in a statement. “I am delighted to be posting my first TRUTH on TRUTH Social very soon.”
The deal announced on Wednesday will combine two entities that are currently little more than corporate shells.
Digital World completed an initial public offering last month. He raised $ 293 million, mainly from hedge funds specializing in the initial financing of âspecialist acquisition companiesâ. These vehicles typically have no operations and only skeletal management teams, and use the money they raise to research acquisition transactions.
The merger with Trump Media has been completed with impressive speed. Under the securities rules that govern Spacs, the OrlÃ©ans-Bragance company had to certify that it did not have an acquisition target in mind when it went public on September 8.
Only six weeks later, Digital World announced a deal to make its cash reserve available to Trump’s new venture, which aims to create “Big Tech’s first great rival” by counteracting “liberal bias. “and creating a” ‘non cancellable’ world community.
The truth is not yet available for download. A page on Apple’s App Store promises it will include standard features from social media apps, such as notifications, profile pictures, and a message feed. A presentation posted on the company’s website envisions an “inclusive ‘big tent’ approach” where “everyone is welcome,” but also commits to “[galvanise] a conservative media universe â.
Even the involvement of the former president in an executive function may not be obvious. A presentation posted on the company’s website mentions Trump’s name at least a dozen times, but also includes an important disclaimer. âAll personnel listed in the game can change,â the presentation reads. “There is no guarantee that [any] employment contract will be finalized.
Regardless of how the business takes shape, the hedge funds that provided Digital World’s liquidity are able to generate a risk-free return. Investors in Spac’s IPOs have the right to buy back their shares at a premium rather than accept a trade.
Some of Digital World’s early backers have done much better than that, selling in the galloping rally that followed the Trump deal announcement. Trading was so dynamic on Thursday that a volume of shares equivalent to the company’s entire share capital changed hands several times, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, to values ââas high as 4.5 times. the price of last month’s IPO.
For those who bought at $ 94.20, the price at Friday’s close, the odds of making a profit largely depend on Trump’s ability to turn initial funding of a few hundred million dollars into a business of social media whose valuation is in the billions.
If Trump is successful, one of the biggest winners will be Patrick Orlando, a Florida-based financial executive whose little-known company, ARC Global Investments II LLC, paid $ 25,000 to buy a stake in the blank check company. Orlando owns about 17.8% of Digital World, according to a September 8 regulatory filing – a stake that was worth more than $ 600 million on Friday.
Digital World describes Orlando as a seasoned financial executive with â25 years of career. . . covers all aspects related to special purpose acquisition companies â. Titles records mention him as holding managerial positions in three other blank check vehicles, including Yunhong International, a Wuhan, China-based shell company initially set up by local businessman Yubao Li. these companies have not yet made any acquisitions.
Prior to turning to Spacs, Orlando was CTO of Pure Biofuels Corporation, whose turbulent existence illustrates the risks of speculative firms in the stock markets.
Incorporated in 2003, Pure Biofuels has raised millions from investors to finance the construction of a biodiesel processing plant in Lima, Peru. The company had not generated any significant revenue when it left Orlando in 2011, and was subsequently dissolved.
Orlando returned to the United States and began working for BT Capital Markets, a Miami-based investment bank where, according to court documents, he worked on a $ 115 million deal to finance a fleet of tugs purchased by the Venezuelan state oil company, PetrÃ³leos de Venezuela.
In the decade leading up to his deal with Trump, Orlando occasionally fought legal battles against business associates.
A lawsuit involved a dispute over ownership of a condominium unit in Miami, which Orlando said had been transferred to him by a former colleague at Pure Biofuels in partial repayment of a loan.
Another targeted a colleague at another company, who allegedly failed to repay the money he owed. The dispute apparently arose over difficulties in arranging the sale of what is described in court documents as “a $ 50 million Honduran debt held by. . . a Swiss banking institution â.
âIn trouble with the bankers, the wife, the family, who pay late bills. . . and getting worse every day, âOrlando wrote in a 2012 email that was reproduced in court documents.
âSometimes I don’t pick up when my dad calls to avoid talking out of sheer embarrassment,â Orlando continued. “The last 3 months, I barely answer if Peru or unknown number.”
Orlando did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear how Orlando recruited a Brazilian prince to serve as financial brains for his new tech venture, or how the couple convinced Trump to sign the most important trade deal of his post-presidency.
But OrlÃ©ans-Bragance, who was an investment banker at JPMorgan Chase and Lazard FrÃ¨res before entering politics, has long expressed admiration for those close to Trump.
Eleven days after last year’s US presidential election, OrlÃ©ans-Braganza joined the chorus of cheering right-wing voices as Trump’s personal lawyer argued, without merit, that irregularities with electronic voting machines had caused tilt the result in favor of Joe Biden.
âRudy Giuliani was a heroic lawyer who faced the Mafia of his time,â OrlÃ©ans-Braganza wrote on Twitter, in Portuguese. “Now he places [voting machine supplier] Smartmatic in public trial.
On Thursday, a day after Trump’s Spac deal was announced, OrlÃ©ans-Braganza posted two photographs on Instagram. In one, the Brazilian royal posed with Trump; in the other, he wields a âgravestoneâ commemorating the Digital World IPO.
OrlÃ©ans-Bragance said he was “honored to be part of this project”.
âThe new platform was born to fight the tyranny of Big Tech,â he added, writing on the Facebook-owned website.