The first official Republican presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle happened on the evening of August 23. By most accounts, the debate’s breakout star was a little-known 38-year-old entrepreneur named Vivek Ramaswamy.
Despite having a fairly low profile heading into the night, Vivek managed to get more speaking time than any other candidate except Mike Pence. Vivek spoke for a combined total of 11 minutes and 47 seconds, while Mike Pence spoke for 12 minutes and 37 seconds. Illustrating his success at becoming the debate’s focus, according to the New York Times’ tracking, Vivek was attacked six times by his opponents, ranking him third behind Donald Trump (who didn’t show) and President Joe Biden. Amazingly, this under-the-radar, ultra-conservative pharmaceutical tycoon walked away the clear winner by pretty much all accounts.
In the days following the debate, dozens of fairly-respectable news outlets published articles about Vivek in which he is described as a billionaire. For example, Forbes posted an article titled:
“How Vivek Ramaswamy Became A Billionaire“
Fast Company’s title was:
“Meet Vivek Ramaswamy, the controversial billionaire shaking up the Republican presidential race“
You get the picture. There’s just one problem. Vivek Ramaswamy is not a billionaire and he has never been a billionaire. He’s extremely rich, and he certainly is within striking distance of billionaire status, but to describe him as a billionaire today is simply false.
And you know what’s really weird? In the Forbes article, which again is literally titled “How Vivek Ramaswamy Became A Billionaire,” Forbes literally says in the third paragraph:
“At 38 years old, the biotech investor and “anti-woke” warrior is worth more than $950 million.“
Pardon me, but since when does having a net worth of $950 million make someone a billionaire? Seems like someone at Forbes really, really wanted to put the word “Billionaire” in a headline, and did their absolute best to swag it out. But that’s not even the end of it. By any reasonable account, Vivek Ramaswamy’s net worth is not $950 million. It’s mayyybe $900 million. Probably closer $800-850 million. Here’s how and why…
Vivek Ramaswamy’s Wealth
Here are the top-line takeaways for understanding Vivek Ramaswamy’s net worth:
#1) Vivek’s biggest asset is a 7.09% stake in a publicly-traded pharmaceutical company called Roivant Sciences. As I type this article, Roivant’s market cap is $8.6 billion. Therefore, Vivek’s equity stake in Roivant is worth…
One obvious flaw in Forbes math is the size of Vivek’s Roivant stake. Forbes said he owns 8%. They’re not the only site to flub this number. For some reason the Wall Street Journal just a week ago said it was 10%. But if you took the time to examine Roivant’s latest holdings, Vivek owns 54,691,501 shares of Roivant, equal to 7.09% of the total outstanding shares.
#2) Vivek is the founder of an index fund provider called Strive Asset Management. Earlier this year, Strive was valued at $300 million. Therefore, Vivek’s equity stake in Strive is worth…
#3) There have been numerous corporate financial disclosures over the years that detail how much Vivek has earned in salary, bonuses and stock-based compensation. For example, Vivek earned $176 million in 2020, the same year Roivant sold five drugs to a Japanese pharma company for $3 billion. According to these disclosures, between 2014 and 2022 Vivek’s total income was…
We don’t apply taxes to #1 and #2 because those are unrealized gains. We should assume Vivek lost around half of his $260 million to taxes. FYI, he lives in Ohio, which is not a no-income-tax state.
Put together, a generous estimation of Vivek’s net worth today would be around $840 million.
Part of the reason we are being conservative here is that the value of Roivant has fluctuated somewhat wildly in the last few years. The company’s current market cap is $8.6 billion. In July Roivant’s market cap hit an all-time high of $8.94 billion. In April it was $5.4 billion. A year ago it was just a bit above $2 billion. So if we ran these numbers a year ago, Vivek’s net worth would have been closer to $400 million.
His wife Apoorva is a surgeon who works at the Wexner Medical School at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The family lives 20 minutes from campus in an 11,000 square foot mansion they purchased for $2 million in May 2021. Vivek also reportedly partially owns three private jets.
What Does Roivant Do, Anyway?
Long story short, Roivant buys drugs whose development has been abandoned by other drug companies (for any number of reasons). It buys these abandoned drugs for pennies on the dollar then tries to get their development over the finish line and FDA approved. For example, a Roivant subsidiary called Axovant Sciences paid $5 million for an abandoned Alzheimer’s drug. It then raised $360 million in the biggest biotech IPO of all time, quickly rocketing to a $2.5 billion market cap in mid-2017. Unfortunately the drug’s trials ended up proving it was ineffective. Axovant tanked the moment the news was made public. Today the company’s market cap is $20 million. That’s not a typo.
Obviously some of Roivant’s bets have turned into winners. For example, in 2020 Roivant sold six of its winners to a Japanese pharmaceutical company called Sumitomo Chemical for $3 billion plus a 5% stake in Roivant. This sale is what led to Vivek making $176 million in 2020. Today when you look at a list of Roivant’s largest equity holders, Vivek is #6 with 54.6 million shares. Sumitomo is #5 with 71.2 million shares. The largest shareholder is a hedge fund called QVT Financial LP, with 122 million shares (16% of the company). QVT was one of the first investors in Roivant. It’s also where Vivek worked for seven years after college.