- Musk says ‘birds are Friday’ after $44 billion deal
- Musk fires Twitter CEO, CFO, policy chief
- Some Twitter users expressed willingness to leave
- Opinion polls show employees are worried about work
- EU warns: ‘This bird will fly by our rules’
Oct 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk snapped up Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) with brutal efficiency, firing executives but giving no clarity on how he will achieve his role as the influential social media platform Outlined ambition.
“The bird is free,” he tweeted after completing the $44 billion acquisition on Thursday, citing Twitter’s bird logo in an apparent attempt to show he would like to see the company have fewer restrictions on what it can publish .
However, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and a self-described free speech absolutist also said he wanted to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber of hatred and division.
Other goals include wanting to “beat” spam bots on Twitter and make publicly available the algorithms that determine how content is presented to users.
Musk, however, did not elaborate on how he would accomplish this and who would run the company. He has said he plans to cut jobs, leaving Twitter’s 7,500 employees worried about their futures. He also said Thursday that he bought Twitter not to make more money, but to “try to help the human beings I love.”
In a poll on messaging app Blind on whether Twitter employees would be hired within three months, less than 10 percent voted “yes.” Of the 266 participants, 38% said “no” and more than 55% chose the “popcorn” option. Blind allows employees to voice their grievances through anonymous messages, and people can sign up through their company email.
Musk fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and head of legal affairs and policy Vijaya Gadde, according to people familiar with the matter. He accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors about the number of fake accounts on the platform.
Agrawal and Siegel were at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and were escorted out when the deal closed, the source added.
Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, plans to become CEO of Twitter after the acquisition and to lift a permanent ban on users, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Twitter, Musk and executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters with a big smile on Wednesday, holding a china sink, before tweeting “Let it sink.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit”.
He also sought to calm employee fears of imminent mass layoffs and assured advertisers that his past criticism of Twitter’s content moderation rules would not hurt its appeal.
“Twitter clearly cannot be an omnipresent hell where nothing is said and there are no consequences!” Musk said in an open letter to advertisers on Thursday.
As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users were quick to say they were willing to leave.
One user with the account @mustlovedogsxo said: “If Musk does what we all expect, I’ll be happy to leave.”
European regulators also repeated past warnings that, under Musk, Twitter must still comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes hefty fines on companies that do not control illegal content.
“In Europe, this bird will fly under our EU rules,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted Friday morning, posting a passage of Breton in a self-reply. A short video from a meeting with Musk last May.
In a sign of the challenges ahead, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was banned from Twitter last year for violating her rules on hate and abuse, praised Musk’s acquisition on Instagram, And shared a request from fans to restore her account.
Musk also said in May that he would reverse the ban on Donald Trump, who was removed from office after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The former US president said he would not return to the platform, but instead launched his own social media app, Truth Social.
Trump’s representatives did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Musk said he sees Twitter as the basis for creating a “super app” that offers everything from sending money to shopping and hailing rides.
But Twitter is struggling to attract the most active users that are critical to the business. These “heavy Twitterers” make up less than 10% of total monthly users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.
The road to this deal has been full of twists and turns, raising doubts that it will ever happen. It began on April 4, when Musk disclosed a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the company’s largest shareholder.
The world’s richest man then agreed to join Twitter’s board, only to hesitate at the last minute and offer to buy the company for $54.20 a share, an offer Twitter thought could be another of Musk’s marijuana jokes.
Musk’s offer was real, and within a weekend in late April, the two sides reached an agreement at the proposed price. This happened without Musk doing any due diligence on the company’s confidential information.
Over the next few weeks, Musk had new ideas. He publicly complained about Twitter’s spam accounts, and his lawyers later accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the subject.
The heated spat led Musk to tell Twitter on July 8 that he would terminate the deal. Four days later, Twitter sued Musk, forcing him to complete the acquisition.
By then, stocks had plummeted on fears of a potential recession. Twitter blamed Musk for buyer’s remorse, arguing he wanted to back out of the deal because he thought he was overpaying.
Most legal analysts said Twitter’s argument was the strongest and likely to prevail in court.
On Oct. 4, just as Musk was about to be ousted by Twitter’s lawyers, he turned around again and offered to close the deal as promised. He managed to do it, just one day before the deadline set by the judge to avoid trial.
Twitter shares closed 0.3 percent higher at $53.86 on Thursday, just below the agreed price. The stock will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
Reporting by Sheila Dang and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi and Miyoung Kim in Singapore; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Edwina Gibbs and Matt Scuffham
Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.