Could this really be the end of Twitter v. Musk? On Thursday, Elon Musk received his biggest win in his legal fight against Twitter. The judge overseeing the case to get the world’s richest man to carry through on his acquisition of the world’s 17th largest social network granted him a pause on litigation until at least October 28 so he can get the rest of the money he needs for the $44 billion deal. Twitter wanted it done by Monday and with more oversight by the court to keep it from crumbling again.
Despite reports about financiers flaking out and potential breakup fees, the reality is that there are no real outs for Musk anymore, only increasingly expensive ways for him to end up owning Twitter. In the end, his victory doesn’t matter because it’s just delaying the inevitable. The obstacle here was never money — it was his will to get it done. And so by Halloween, he should be the next owner and CEO of the social network he has so long coveted.
At this point, the details of the fighting are tawdry and a little gratuitous, like the gossip about the latest fight between a couple just weeks away from finalizing a divorce. (But doesn’t that make it even more alluring?) To recap: Musk quit fighting the lawsuit to make him buy Twitter as he promised just days after humiliating his friends when text messages were revealed in court. Closed-door negotiations ensued. Twitter was reluctant to take him at his word that this time, for real, pinky swear, he was ready to do the deal, and the talks went nowhere. Team Musk filed a letter saying they would have the money by October 28 and called Twitter obstinate for not moving to stay the lawsuit. Twitter responded by saying that Musk was playing them for a fool, that there was no reason the deal couldn’t be done by October 10, and questioned whether he was stalling. Both sides appear to be talking past each other about whether or not the money is ready to go. Less than an hour after they submitted their gripes, Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick decided that she had better things to do than babysit the deal and put the case on ice.
This means that McCormick, who has previously shown that her patience was wearing thin with Team Musk, has confidence that he’ll do what he says he’s going to do and buy Twitter — a mixed blessing if there ever was one for the centibillionaire. The issue was ultimately a matter of 18 days and whether Musk receives the benefit of the doubt — after nearly three months litigating this case, it’s a marginal detail. But this gets to the key aspect of what was stopping the deal: him. It doesn’t matter now if he has to pay a little bit more or if a bank could lose money on the deal. Arguably, it never did. That’s always been the small stuff, kinks for lawyers and bankers who get paid lots of money to figure out. (And honestly, even at this point, do you really think that if a couple of investors dropped out Musk wouldn’t be able to find someone else to take their place? The texts from this spring show that there was more money available than he needed, and even if the price looks less attractive now, Musk’s star power still goes a long way to getting institutions to send a wire transfer).
Ultimately, a trial is a clarifying event. It makes evidence public. In this aborted case, it revealed that the world’s richest man was willing to bully and bluster Twitter with implausible theories about the number of bots on the platform or that it was all a big fraud that he could hardly stand up, apparently in an attempt to save some money on an ill-timed deal. But it’s arguable whether we learned anything new about Musk the man. We think we know him, his Twitter presence flickering onto our screens, his every move covered by the press. And we did get to see a glimpse of what it’s like as a Silicon Valley techno-king when his texts became public, though, really, they showed more about his friends. But all this courtroom noise was arguably an extension of his chaotic Twitter persona. As online as he is — giving people a level of access to his thoughts that the megarich of other eras, your Rockefellers or Carnegies, would never deign — he only went up to the very edge of revelation before backing away on the eve of his deposition. He was always handicapped to lose this suit. As the next ruler of Twitter, we’ll probably hear only more from Musk, but it will just be more of what he wants us to hear.