It’s really happening: World’s richest man and internet troll Elon Musk has won over Twitter’s board of directors and will take control of the company in a $44 billion deal. The Tesla–SpaceX–Boring Company CEO said in a statement that he wants to “make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” Now Musk, who has relished his status as an avid shit-talker on the world’s 15th-largest social-media platform by users, is a media mogul.
For weeks, it had all seemed like a long shot. On April 4, Musk filed a securities notice that he had bought up a 9 percent stake in Twitter, a purchase that seemed to come out of nowhere. At first, the company’s directors offered him a board seat, but he said no thanks. The day after he first made his offer to take over the company on April 14, the board dismissed him, presumably because it wasn’t clear where the purchase money would come from. It used a “poison pill” maneuver that would have stopped Musk in his tracks were he to buy up more than 15 percent of the company. But on April 21, he found his backing: Three major banks, and a chunk of his own personal fortune, would finance the take-private move at $54.20 a share, a price that was not only 19 percent above where Twitter had opened that morning but also a dumb weed joke, the latest in the seemingly never-ending string of finance-marijuana “humor” from Musk. It wasn’t initially clear whether the company would accept the offer, but things started to come together Sunday night, and it was a deal by Monday afternoon.
It’s worth taking a second here to note that Musk’s purchase comes at a good time for him and a bad one for the company. The Tesla CEO has reportedly spent the past few days talking with friendly shareholders who are most likely losing money this year. Those shareholders have then pressured the board to take Musk’s offer and run. The board was in an especially tough position because Musk had threatened to take his plan directly to the company’s investors — the very group the board is supposed to represent. This would increase the likelihood that the board could be seen as acting against those investors’ interests. For some of those investors, such as hedge funds that are trying to make quick profits, the thinking here is easy: With the economy stumbling toward a possible recession and technology companies losing market value, saying yes to Musk would be a win in an otherwise bleak environment. And with Wall Street expecting Twitter to announce weak quarterly earnings on Thursday, there has been even more pressure to get this done sooner rather than later.
The reaction on Twitter has been exactly what you’d expect. A few people threatened to leave the app, but most addicted power users know by now that no one ever truly leaves. Others shrugged. “If you want my honest prediction it’s that even if he succeeds in buying Twitter it won’t make that much of a difference. He’ll get a rude awakening about how content moderation actually works, get bored & move onto something else,” tweeted Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, a technology-advocacy nonprofit.
The big question now is what Musk plans to do with his new prize. He has tweeted a lot about how Twitter has dropped the ball on “free speech” but given little indication of how he’d do things differently without alienating a wide swath of the platform’s users. (Donald Trump’s return to Twitter now seems more likely than ever, and the company that plans to take Trump’s social-media competitor public has plummeted in value.) But Musk’s main goal seems to be attracting and retaining as many users as possible, as evidenced by his plea on Monday for people to stick around even if they don’t like him:
Where else would you go to complain about it?