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Business

Musk Begins Twitter Ownership With Firing, Declares ‘The Bird Is Free’




  • Musk says “the bird has been released” after a $44 billion deal
  • Musk fires Twitter CEO, CFO, policy chief
  • Some Twitter users are flagging their willingness to walk away
  • Poll shows employees’ job problems
  • EU warns: “This bird will fly by our rules”

Oct 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk has taken ownership of Twitter Inc ( TWTR.N ) with brutal efficiency, firing top executives but offering little clarity on how he will achieve the ambitions he has outlined for the influential social media platform.

“The bird is freed,” he tweeted after completing the $44 billion purchase on Thursday, referring to Twitter’s bird logo in an apparent nod to his desire to see the company have fewer limits on content that can be posted.

However, the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc ( TSLA.O ) and self-described freedom of speech absolute has also said he wants to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hatred and division.

Other goals include wanting to “fight” spambots on Twitter and making the algorithms that determine how content is presented to users publicly available.

However, Musk has not given details about how he will achieve all this and who will lead the company. He has said he plans to cut jobs, leaving Twitter’s 7,500 employees worried about their future. He also said Thursday that he didn’t buy Twitter to make more money, but “to try to help humanity, which I love.”

In an ongoing poll on messaging app Blind about whether Twitter employees will be hired by the company in three months, less than 10% voted “yes.” Of the 266 participants, 38% said “No” and over 55% chose the “popcorn” option. Blind allows anonymous messages from employees to post complaints where people can register with 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 had accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors over the number of fake accounts on the platform.

Agrawal and Segal were at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco when the deal closed and were escorted out, the sources added.

Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, plans to become Twitter’s CEO after completing the acquisition and also plans to scrap permanent bans on users, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Twitter, Musk and its executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘CHIEF TWIT’

Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters Wednesday with a big grin and a china sink, then tweeted “let it sink in.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit”.

He also sought to calm staff fears that major layoffs are coming, assuring advertisers that his previous criticism of Twitter’s content moderation rules would not hurt its appeal.

“Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hell, where anything can be said without consequences!” Musk said so in an open letter to advertisers on Thursday.

As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users were quick to flag their willingness to walk away.

“I would leave in a heartbeat if Musk, well, acts like we all expect him to,” said one user with the @mustlovedogsxo account.

European regulators also reiterated earlier warnings that Twitter under Musk’s leadership must still comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes heavy fines on companies if they fail to control illegal content.

“In Europe, the bird will fly according to our EU rules,” wrote EU industry chief Thierry Breton on Friday morning, posting in a self-reply a short video of Breton and Musk after their meeting last May.

In an indication of the challenges ahead, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was banned from Twitter last year for violating its hateful and abusive behavior rules, applauded Musk’s takeover on Instagram and shared requests from fans to have her account restored.

Musk also said in May that he would reverse the ban on Donald Trump, which was lifted after the attack on the US capital. The former US president has said he will not return to the platform and has instead launched his own social media app, Truth Social.

A representative for Trump did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Musk has indicated that he sees Twitter as a foundation for creating a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and travel chat.

But Twitter is struggling to engage its most active users who are critical to the business. These “heavy tweeters” account for less than 10% of the monthly total users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of the global revenue.

A STORY

The road to the deal was full of twists and turns that cast doubt on whether it would happen at all. It began on April 4, when Musk revealed a 9.2% Twitter stake, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

The world’s richest person then agreed to join Twitter’s board, only to cave in at the last minute and offer to buy the company instead for $54.20 a share, an offer Twitter thought could be another of Musk’s cannabis jokes.

Musk’s offer was real, and in just one weekend later in April, the two sides reached an agreement at the suggested price. This happened without Musk doing any due diligence on the company’s confidential information.

In the weeks that followed, Musk had second thoughts. He publicly complained about Twitter’s spam accounts, and his lawyers subsequently accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the subject.

The row resulted in Musk telling Twitter on July 8 that he was ending the deal. Four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.

By then, the stock market had plunged on concerns about a potential recession. Twitter accused Musk of buyer’s remorse, claiming he wanted out of the deal because he believed he paid too much.

Most legal analysts said Twitter had the strongest case and would likely prevail in court.

On October 4, just as Musk was about to be deposed by Twitter’s lawyers, he performed another U-turn, offering to complete the deal as promised. He did so, just one day before a deadline given by a judge to avoid going to trial.

Twitter shares ended trading Thursday up 0.3% at $53.86, just below the agreed price. The stock will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics

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 standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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