Days before he publicly announced his investment on Twitter, Elon Musk texted with Jack Dorsey. The former Twitter chief suggested he no longer believed in the company he founded, according to new court documents in the lawsuit between Musk and Twitter.
Musk had quietly started building up a large stake in Twitter (TWTR) in January. In a March 26 text, Dorsey told Musk, “a new platform is needed. It cannot be a company. This is why I left.”[ads1];
Musk, an avid Twitter user who was often seen as friendly with Dorsey, responded by asking what the platform would look like. Dorsey explained his view that it should be “an open source protocol” and not rely on “an advertising model”, as Twitter currently does. Dorsey added that Twitter “should never have been a company,” saying, “that was the original sin.”
Musk expressed interest in promoting the idea. In a later text that day, he said, “I think it’s worth both trying to move Twitter in a better direction and doing something new that’s decentralized.”
The private exchanges between Dorsey and Musk are among several text messages released in court filings this week, offering new insight into the Tesla chief’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter and his attempts to later back out of the deal. The messages also offer a unique window into Silicon Valley deals, as a rotating cast of billionaires and industry leaders — from Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff to members of the Murdoch family — slide into Musk’s text messages to discuss Twitter and, in some cases, casually offer financial support for the agreement.
In the days following his private chat with Dorsey, Musk met with Twitter’s board and management. On April 5, Musk agreed to join the company’s board, a move Dorsey championed publicly and privately. In a text exchange with Musk later that day, Dorsey expressed confidence in Parag Agrawal, his successor as Twitter’s CEO. Agrawal also expressed excitement in private texts about Musk joining the board.
But the relationship between Musk and the Twitter boss appeared to sour quickly.
On April 9, Musk tweeted a question: “Is Twitter dying?” Agrawal followed up that day with a text telling Musk that such comments would make the CEO’s life difficult.
“You are free to tweet ‘is Twitter dying?’ or anything else about Twitter,” Agrawal said in the text to Musk, “but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context. Next time we talk, I’d like you to give it [your] perspective on the level of internal distraction right now and how [it’s] hurt our ability to do work … I want the company to get to a place where we’re more resilient and not distracted, but we’re not there right now.”
Musk replied succinctly: “What did you get done this week?” In two follow-up texts, he withdrew the agreement to join the board and said: “I will not join the board. This is a waste of time.” He added: “Will make an offer to take Twitter private.”
In a separate exchange the same day with Twitter chairman Bret Taylor, Musk said: “Fixing Twitter by chatting with Parag is not going to work,” Musk said. He added in a follow-up text: “Drastic action is required.”
Musk and Twitter announced an acquisition deal on April 25. A little more than two months later, Musk said he wanted out of the deal, citing concerns about the number of bot and spam accounts on the platform. Twitter then sued Musk to force him to follow through on the deal.
The two sides are set to go to trial over the deal next month.
After Musk’s first investment in Twitter went public, and with speculation mounting about a possible takeover deal, the billionaire began receiving input from some prominent outside voices.
In a text message on April 23, two days before the deal was announced, controversial podcast host Joe Rogan told Elon Musk: “I REALLY hope you get Twitter. If you do, we better throw one hell of a party.”
Musk also sent messages with bankers and potential investors such as his brother, Kimbal Musk, and Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle, in an effort to line up financing for the deal, as well as potential executives for the new company if his takeover bid is successful. Musk and investor Jason Calacanis discussed the latter becoming a strategic advisor or board member. Someone identified in Musk’s texts as “BL Lee” suggested venture capitalist Bill Gurley as Twitter’s new CEO.
In the days after the acquisition deal was announced, Musk discussed ideas for the platform with a number of characters, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and tech investor David Sacks. Sacks suggested that former Michigan congressman Justin Amash be involved in Twitter’s content moderation efforts.
Musk’s banker Michael Grimes suggested crypto-billionaire wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried as an investor who could also help advance Musk’s vision of a Twitter built on the blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies.
The new filing also includes a text from Musk to Grimes that was referenced in a hearing earlier this month by Twitter lawyers, who argue that Musk walked out of the deal not because of his concerns about robots, but because he was worried about the stock market decline and geopolitical problems, none of which would be legitimate grounds for terminating the agreement.
In a message to Grimes on May 8, Musk said the deal process would “slow down just a few days” before a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin the next day that many worried could escalate the war in Ukraine to other countries. “It won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re heading into WW3,” Musk said.