- 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’
NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk bought Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) with brutal efficiency, firing top executives but giving no clarity on how he will achieve his role as an influential of social media platforms outlining ambitions.
“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.”
Less than 10 percent of 266 Twitter employees who participated in a poll for messaging app Blind expected to still be employed within three months. Blind allows employees to express grievances anonymously after signing up for a 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 the rocket company SpaceX, plans to become Twitter’s interim CEO, according to people familiar with the matter. Musk also plans to lift the permanent ban on users, Bloomberg reported, citing a person 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”.
Musk said in May that he would rescind Twitter’s ban on Donald Trump, whose account was deleted after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment, but the former U.S. president has previously said he would not return to the platform, launching his own social media app, Truth Social.
Musk sought to quell fears among Twitter employees 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, the bird will fly under our EU rules,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted Friday morning.
Patrick Breyer, a member of the European Parliament and civil rights supporter, suggested that people look for alternatives that prioritize privacy.
“Twitter already knows our personalities very well, thanks to the ubiquitous monitoring of our every click. Now that knowledge will be in Musk’s hands.”
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.
Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said Musk will be challenged to build revenue “given his controversial opinions that he seems to want to give more discretion often frowned upon by advertisers.”
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.
Over a weekend in late April, the two sides reached an agreement that Musk did not perform 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 believe Twitter could prevail in court.
On October 4, Musk turned around again and offered to complete the deal as promised. He managed to do it, just a day before the deadline, 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 Mathieu Rosemain in Paris, Foo Yun Chee in Brussels, Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi and Miyoung Kim in Singapore, Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Anirban Sen in New York; Additional reporting by Nick Zieminski, Edwina Gibbs Edited by Matt Scuffham, Elaine Hardcastle
Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.