Elon Musk has finalized a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, a source familiar with the deal told CNN Thursday, putting the world’s richest man at the helm of the world’s most influential social media platform.
Mook fired CEO Parag Agrawal and two other executives, two people familiar with the decision said. Twitter declined to comment.
The deal’s closing removes a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Twitter’s business, employees and shareholders for years. After originally agreeing to buy the company in April, Musk spent months trying to get out of the deal, citing allegations first about the number of bots on the platform and later in the company’s index.
By finalizing the deal, Musk and Twitter moved away from a trial that was scheduled to take place earlier this month. But Musk’s takeover and immediate ouster of some CEOs raises many new questions for the future of the social media platform and many corners of society. Mook also fired CFO Ned Segal and chief policy officer Vijay Gade on Thursday, the two sources said.
Musk has said he plans to replace Twitter’s content moderation policies in favor of greater “freedom of speech.” The billionaire has said he does not agree with Twitter’s practice of permanently banning people who repeatedly violate its rules, raising the possibility that previously banned and controversial users could appear on the platform.
Perhaps soon, many will be watching how soon Musk will allow former President Donald Trump to return to the stage as he has done in the past. Depending on the timing, such a move could have major implications for the upcoming US midterm elections and the 2024 presidential campaign.
In taking these steps, Musk could initially disrupt conservative-leaning social media properties that have responded to complaints about restrictions and restrictions on Twitter and other major services, reviving public discourse online and elevating the media and political ecosystem.
Earlier this week, Musk visited Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters to meet with employees. He also issued an open letter to Twitter advertisers, saying he doesn’t want the platform to be a “free-for-all hell setting.”
The acquisition promises to extend Musk’s influence. The billionaire owns, controls or has significant stakes in companies developing cars, rockets, robots and satellite internet, as well as more experimental ventures such as brain implants. It now dominates the social media platform that shapes how hundreds of millions of people communicate and get their news.
Even for Twitter, which has been somewhat chaotic in its history, the months-long deal process was a mess.
Popular and controversial Twitter user Musk got involved with the company earlier this year when he built up a stake of more than 9% in the stock. Musk turned down an offer to sit on the company’s board after announcing he was Twitter’s largest shareholder.
Musk then offered to buy Twitter at a high price, threatened hostile takeovers and signed a “seller-friendly” deal to buy the company that included waiving due diligence.
“This is not a way to make money,” Musk said in an on-stage interview shortly after making an offer to buy Twitter. “It is essential for the future of civilization that my strong intellect is highly trusted and has a broad public platform.”
Musk also vowed to “defeat spam bots or die trying,” referring to fake and fraudulent accounts, particularly in his responses to Twitter and other platforms with large followings.
However, within weeks of the acquisition deal, Musk began raising concerns on Twitter about the proliferation of those same fake and spammy accounts, and eventually tried to pull the plug on the deal.
Twitter sued to pursue the deal, saying Musk is using the bot controversy as a pretext to back out of a deal that has developed buyer’s remorse. In the weeks since the deal was announced, much of the stock market, including social media companies, has been hit by inflation and falling concerns. The downturn hit Tesla and, in turn, Musk’s personal worth.
Legal experts widely believed that Twitter had a strong case for the agreement to be enforced in court. Two weeks before the controversial legal battle went to trial, Musk said he would pursue the deal in its original terms. As the parties negotiated, Musk’s lawyers asked the judge to halt the legal process, prompting him to back off from Twitter, which was concerned that Musk might not keep his promise to close the deal.
In a civil response, Twitter’s lawyers wrote that Musk was trying to get out of the deal and that “now on the eve of trial, the defendants have indicated that they intend to close.” They say, ‘Trust us, we mean it this time.’
Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathleen St. Judge McCormick gave the parties until Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. to close the deal or reschedule.
With the drama of the deal out of the way, attention now turns to Musk’s plans for Twitter.
In addition to ousting Twitter’s CEO and other executives, Musk’s takeover could return some influence at the company to founder Jack Dorsey, who stepped down as CEO in November and left the board in May. Although Dorsey says he doesn’t regularly return to Twitter, he has personally discussed his tenure with Field and offered advice.
Musk also reportedly told investors in the deal that he plans to lay off about 75% of the company’s workforce. Earlier in court filings, he discussed the deal with friends in private text messages that would significantly reduce Twitter’s workforce, and he did not rule out the possibility of layoffs in a call with Twitter employees in June.
Under Musk, Twitter may not benefit many of its existing employees. Musk has repeatedly made it clear that he will overhaul Twitter’s content moderation policies and strengthen what he calls “freedom of speech.”
Such a move could have a huge impact on the social media landscape. Twitter, though smaller than many of its social media rivals, has at times served as a model for how the industry handles problematic content, including when it first blocked then-President Trump on Jan. 6 following the Capitol riots.
And in recent years, several alternative social networks have targeted many mainstream services, mostly at conservatives who limit their speech too much. These services include Trump’s Truth Social and Parlor, which Kanye West said he would soon discover. While it’s unclear how far Musk might go to achieve his dream of free speech, any loosening of content moderation policies could effectively make Twitter, which offers a large audience, a more attractive service to a small number of users who have fled some users. Brake services. (But Musk could run into regulatory issues, particularly in Europe, depending on how far he takes his efforts to loosen content restrictions.)
In addition to content moderation, Musk has also unveiled several other potential changes to the platform, from enabling end-to-end encryption for Twitter direct messaging to recently hinting that it will be part of an “everything” app called Twitter X. Perhaps in the style of the popular Chinese app WeChat.
Musk has tried to sound optimistic about Twitter’s potential despite his months-long attempt to get out of buying the company and his recent comments that he was “obviously overpaying” for it.
“In my view, Twitter’s long-term potential is an order of magnitude greater than its current value,” he said at Tesla’s earnings conference call last week.