Tesla CEO Elon Musk is infamous for using Twitter to tease and tease out various ideas he has about his business interests, cryptocurrency, politics and life in general, but today it looks like he’s making good on one of the biggest of his musings. Twitter has announced that it has accepted Musk’s offer to acquire the publicly traded company at $54.20/share, valuing the social media platform at $44 billion.
Moments after the news broke that Twitter trading was halted, the company issued a press release confirming that it was accepting Musk’s offer to take the social network private.
“The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing,” Twitter’s Independent Board Chair Bret Taylor said of the deal. “The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders.”
In the press release, Musk repeated his refrain that “free speech” is key to Twitter’s future, though most of his ideas for how to optimize the social network, including adding new products, fighting spam and opening up its algorithms, are things the company was already in the process of doing prior to his dramatic intervention.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said.
“I also want 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. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
It’s not clear from Musk’s statement what exactly he means by “authenticating all humans” — is that just the ongoing work of ridding the platform of spammy bots or a new, stricter stance on non-human automated accounts? If the latter, that would certainly change Twitter’s flavor as a social platform that’s long been home to useful and occasionally delightful bot accounts.
Twitter says the transaction, which was unanimously approved by the board, will likely close this year following shareholder and regulatory approval and “the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.” Until those matters are resolved, it’s not a done deal.
The news comes after strategically placed reports from overnight that Twitter — contrary to earlier statements about the poison pill it would prefer over Musk acquiring it — was entertaining the offer.
The Twitter/Musk acquisition dance has been a pretty short one, especially considering the size of the deal: It started less than a month ago, when Musk first took to Twitter to make lots of pointed comments about social networks and Twitter itself and what it’s not doing well, only for Twitter to disclose on April 4 that Musk had in fact taken a significant $3 billion stake — some 9.2% of shares in the company.
A Musk-shaped seat on the board swiftly followed before being pulled away. Shareholders were annoyed with Musk and sued him over what they believed was obvious share price manipulation.
And Musk? Musk doubled down and said that actually he’d just prefer to buy the whole damn platform. That was on April 14.
The board balked and the poison pill made a viral interlude in the world of corporate tech news.
But Musk, currently the world’s richest individual on paper, simply pressed on, spelled out how he would finance such a deal, and suddenly everyone started to take him seriously. Money always talks.
Overnight — last night — the leaks began to drip out about Twitter considering the deal after all.
The news is bound to upset a lot of people — Musk has a tendency to polarize, and so does Twitter, so it’s basically a given.
And so it will be intriguing to see what that spells out about Twitter as a business. It will also be worth watching to figure out just what Musk’s agenda or intention may be. Moguls buying up media properties is not exactly novel — we’d argue it’s the next (big) step up in the same trajectory that includes yachts and other iconic assets.
Musk, however, has been a Twitter power user for a long time, which means it’s likely that he will be approaching this as more than an investors’ vanity play or a purely financial play. He has ideas. And even if you don’t like him, you have to admit he’s smart. He may have plans to turn Twitter into a bigger and profitable business. Or, he may have already decided that Twitter is much more fun as an expensive plaything and a lever for juicing other interests (which is, for all intents and purposes, the only thing we have proof of him using Twitter for so far).
Whichever it is, if he has his way he will now have a mouthpiece that he can control as he pleases.
We’ll update this post as we learn more.