By Helen Coster, Tiyashi Datta and Nivedita Balu
(Reuters) -American rapper Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, has agreed in principle to buy Parler, the social media platform popular among U.S. conservatives, parent company Parlement Technologies said on Monday.
Nashville-based Parler, which has raised about $56 million to date, said it expects the deal to close during the fourth quarter of 2022. It did not give a deal value.
Parler, which launched in 2018, has been reinstated on Google and Apple Inc's app stores after being removed following the U.S. Capitol riots in January 2021. Parler is one of several social media platforms, including Gettr, Gab and Truth Social, that position themselves as free-speech alternatives to Twitter Inc.
Last month, Parler created a new parent company, Parlement Technologies Inc, as part of an overhaul.
In an interview with Reuters Monday, Parlement Technologies Chief Executive Officer George Farmer said the deal talks with Ye began recently, after Paris Fashion Week.
In Paris on Oct. 3, Ye, who is also a fashion designer, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: “White Lives Matter.” Four days later, he made Instagram posts that several Jewish groups called anti-Semitic. Meta Platforms, which owns Instagram and Facebook, locked Ye out of his Instagram account for the posts.
Ye then moved to Twitter, posting on Oct. 8 for the first time in two years; Twitter soon locked his account.
The Parler deal came together quickly, CEO Farmer said, and Parlement was "presented with an opportunity."
“The motivating factor with him was the discussion about Instagram blocking him.” Farmer declined to comment on whether the deal includes a break-up fee if either party terminates it.
Ye in September terminated his partnership with apparel retailer Gap Inc, while German sporting goods maker Adidas on Oct. 6 said it is reviewing its business partnership with the rapper.
Farmer said Monday he is not concerned about Parler's advertising prospects under Ye.
“I see this as a warning shot across the bow for companies that want to de-platform people," Farmer said. "There are increasingly advertisers who want to advertise to this space.”
Ye seemed to have joined Parler on Monday and had about 91 followers at the time of the announcement. He now has 3,900.
"In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves," he said in a statement.
Farmer says Parler has 16.5 million registered users. Research firm Apptopia estimates the platform has been installed 11.7 million times since launch, with an estimated 40,000 daily active users.
Forbes estimates Ye to have a net worth of $2 billion.
(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Dhanya Ann Thoppil)