The week that shook Twitter: How Elon Musk built his stake
Twitter users awoke April 4 to discover the phrases “Elon” and “Elon Musk” trending on the platform — not because the world’s richest, the most-followed businessman had caused a stir with his futuristic firms, but because he’d disclosed a significant stake in Twitter Inc.
Suddenly, Musk was Twitter’s largest individual shareholder, owning more than 9% of the company, and speculation swirled about how he would influence the community’s future. He’d been tweeting ideas for redesigning the social media platform regularly.
Over the next week, he would accept a proposal to join Twitter’s board of directors, only to reject it five days later, leaving the company’s administration, staff, traders, and observers in the dark about his intentions.
He has been making headlines for the past seven days. But it’s not Tesla, where he currently serves as CEO, that he’s tinkering with this time. Instead, he’s made headlines for his recent investment in Twitter.
The headlines didn’t stop there, typical of his eccentric and bombastic personality. Musk made headlines for seven days with his statements and actions concerning the company and its future. Musk appeared to confirm his intention to join Twitter’s board of directors at first, but a few days later, he and Twitter’s CEO reversed their decision with cryptic statements and tweets.
Musk caused even more uproar after filing his investment when he tweeted, “Do you want an edit button?” referring to a long-standing feature request from Twitter users and appearing to indicate that he was interested in making changes to the platform.
“It became clear to us in recent weeks through conversations with Elon that he would bring great value to our Board,” he wrote. “He’s both a fervent supporter and a harsh critic of the service, which is exactly what we need.”
“Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in the coming months!” He responded via Twitter. Later that day, Musk filed another SEC filing indicating that he would be taking a more active role as an investor and that he had agreed not to buy more than 14.9 per cent of the company. The more shares Musk owns, the easier it will be for him to orchestrate the company’s direction potentially.
Simultaneously, He was tweeting memes about his alleged influence over Twitter, including one that drew a link between Musk’s first significant business move — “Sells Zip2 to Compaq for $305m” — and Twitter “finally” getting an edit button. Zip2 was Musk’s first business, which he sold in his late twenties. The domino meme he shared implies that Musk’s decision to sell the company and pursue entrepreneurship was the first in a series of events that would eventually lead to Twitter’s addition of the edit feature.
According to two people, some employees were irritated that Mr. Agrawal had not been more forthcoming when Mr. Musk first began quietly buying up massive amounts of the company’s stock. Mr. Agrawal stated that the board had spoken with Mr. Musk several times and that the members believed they were on the same page on key issues.
Other employees suggested that Mr. Agrawal tweet more in response to Mr. Musk’s aggressive tweets. Others wondered what a takeover would mean for their stock compensation and the company’s culture, which is known to be inclusive despite reports of racism in Tesla facilities.
Employees also inquired whether Twitter was considering alternatives to blocking Mr. Musk, such as acquisition by another company or a poison pill.
Mr. Agrawal stated that, while he understood the situation was frustrating, he was not legally permitted to go into great detail about what was going on. He stated that the board would conduct a thorough review of His proposal before deciding on the best interests of shareholders.
However, he urged employees to look beyond the initial chaos surrounding the company and continue to focus on the work at hand — even if that meant tuning out Mr. Musk’s antics.
Another employee expressed displeasure that Mr. Musk, the company’s potential future owner, was essentially backing into a corner, which scared many employees who are familiar with the billionaire’s history of erratic behaviour. One employee likened it to a “hostage situation.”
Mr. Agrawal attempted to assuage the attendees’ concerns, but some felt the meeting lacked substance after it concluded at around 2:35 pm. Mr. Agrawal told employees, “I don’t believe we’re being held, hostage.”A representative for Twitter declined to comment on the meeting.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has launched a bid to take over Twitter, a move that could have far-reaching consequences for a social network where world leaders, lawmakers, celebrities, and over 217 million other users engage in daily public discourse.
Mr. Musk’s bid came just weeks after becoming the company’s largest shareholder (though his holdings appear to have been eclipsed since then by the investment management giant Vanguard). He proposed $54.20 per share, valuing the company at approximately $43 billion.
Mr. Musk, a power user with nearly 82 million followers, has long advocated for free speech. He has repeatedly chastised for overly restricting its platform, and he has previously floated the idea of drastically altering the platform.
“I invested in Twitter because I believe in its potential to be a platform for free speech around the world,” Mr. Musk wrote in a letter to Twitter’s board chair, Bret Taylor, on Wednesday. “I believe that free expression is a societal requirement for a functioning democracy.”
“Since making my investment, I’ve realized that the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form,” he wrote to Mr. Taylor. “Twitter should be spun off as a private company.”
Mr. Musk has long used Twitter to mock critics, troll Tesla short-sellers, and propose grandiose space travel plans. He has also disseminated false information about the pandemic. In 2018, he mused about taking Tesla private and falsely claimed he had secured funding for the transaction, for which he was fined $40 million by the S.E.C.
Later that day, during an interview at the TED2022 conference in Vancouver, Canada, Musk reiterated his commitment to free speech, saying that he believes Twitter’s moderation practices should, in most cases, align with the value of free speech whenever there are “grey areas.”
Edited by Prakriti Arora