Elon Musk completes Twitter takeover and fires top executives
Elon Musk on Thursday completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, after months of dramatic attempts to renege.
Why it matters: The deal gives Musk sole control of one of the most important global platforms for political speech and social discourse.
- CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and general counsel Sean Edgett all were fired.
- Also removed was Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's longtime head of legal, policy and trust. Prior CEO Jack Dorsey had put her in charge of major user account decisions like the one to permanently ban former President Trump (his account remains suspended as of this writing).
What they're saying: In his first comments since completing his Twitter takeover, Musk tweeted just before midnight Thursday: "the bird is freed."
Backstory: Musk began talking with Twitter in March about getting involved with the company, and disclosed a 9.2% ownership stake in early April.
- By the end of April, he had a signed deal to buy the company. By May, he was publicly expressing doubts. And in July, he tried to officially walk away.
- Twitter sued, Musk countersued, and the two sides were headed to trial before Musk caved in early October.
- During most of this time, Twitter's stock traded well below Musk's $54.20 per share takeover offer. It closed under $40 as late as Sept. 6.
Be smart: Musk first said his backpedaling was because Twitter underreported its number of fake accounts, before later adding in concerns tied to a whistleblower complaint from the company's former chief security officer.
- But the subtext always was that he'd agreed to significantly overpay for a company with significant business challenges.
- He rushed into the deal, eschewing most due diligence, just as the broader tech markets took a nosedive.
The big picture: Musk assumes control of Twitter at a chaotic time for free speech in America.
- Several alternative social networks have in recent years been launched, including Trump's Truth Social.
- Trump, who was permanently suspended two days after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has said he wouldn't resume using Twitter even if his account was reinstated, something Musk has pledged to do.
Between the lines: Musk hasn't yet laid out a clear vision for Twitter.
- He reportedly told some investors that he'd cut 75% of Twitter's headcount once the deal closes, but he more recently told employees otherwise.
- Musk said he wants Twitter to prioritize free speech, but has said he would adhere to the local laws of any country Twitter operates in — and those laws often stifle free speech. He also tweeted a message to advertisers, acknowledging that the platform "cannot become a free-for-all hellscape."
- He's also suggested that he wants to make Twitter a "super app," akin to China’s WeChat.
The bottom line: For months there have been worries and excitement about what an Elon-owned Twitter would do. Now the world is about to find out.