According to a source close to the transaction, Elon Musk has finalised his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, making him the richest man in the world and giving him control of one of the most important social media platforms in the world.
Musk fired CEO Parag Agrawal and two other executives, according to two people familiar with the decision.
The deal’s closing removes a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Twitter’s business, employees and shareholders for much of the year.
After initially agreeing to buy the company in April, Musk spent months attempting to get out of the deal, first citing concerns about the number of bots on the platform and later allegations raised by a company whistleblower.
Musk has said he plans to rethink Twitter’s content moderation policies in service of a more maximalist approach to “free speech.”
Perhaps most immediately, many will be watching to see how soon Musk could let former President Donald Trump back on the platform, as he has previously said he would do.
In taking those steps, Musk could singlehandedly upend the media and political ecosystem, reshape public discourse online and disrupt the nascent sphere of conservative-leaning social media properties that emerged largely in response to grievances about bans and restrictions on Twitter and other mainstream services.
Earlier this week, Musk visited Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters to meet with employees.
The acquisition also promises to extend Musk’s influence.
The billionaire already owns, oversees or has significant stakes in companies developing cars, rockets, robots and satellite internet, as well as more experimental ventures such as brain implants.
Now he controls a social media platform that shapes how hundreds of millions of people communicate and get their news.
A deal that went off the rails
Even for Twitter, a company known for a certain amount of chaos over its history, the months-long deal process with Musk was turbulent.
“This is not a way to make money,” Musk said in an on-stage interview shortly after making an offer to buy Twitter. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.”
Musk also pledged to “defeat the spam bots or die trying,” referring to the fake and scam accounts that are often especially active in the replies to his tweets and those of others with large followings on the platform.
Within weeks of the acquisition agreement, however, Musk began raising concerns about the prevalence of those same fake and spam accounts on Twitter and ultimately attempted to terminate the deal.
Twitter sued him to follow through with the agreement, alleging that Musk was using the bot argument as a pretence to get out of a deal for which he had developed buyer’s remorse.
In the weeks after the deal was announced, much of the stock market, including social media companies, declined amid concerns about rising inflation and a looming recession.
The downturn also hit Tesla and, in turn, Musk’s personal net worth.
As the parties negotiated, Musk’s attorneys asked a judge to stay the legal proceedings, prompting pushback from Twitter, which feared that Musk might not stay true to his promise to close the deal.
‘Trust us,’ they say, ‘we mean it this time.’”
Delaware Chancery Court chancellor Kathaleen St. Judge McCormick gave the parties until 5 p.m. on Oct. 28 to close the deal or face a rescheduled trial.
What’s next for Twitter
With the deal drama out of the way, attention now turns to Musk’s plans for Twitter.
Beyond the removal of Twitter’s CEO and other executives, Musk’s takeover could also usher in the return of some measure of influence over the company by founder Jack Dorsey, who stepped down as CEO in November and left its board in May. While Dorsey has said he will not formally return to Twitter, he has privately discussed the takeover with Musk and offered advice.
Under Musk, Twitter may not have used it for many of its existing staff.
Such a move could also have ripple effects across the social media landscape.
Twitter, although smaller than many of its social media rivals, has sometimes acted as a model for how the industry handles problematic content, including when it was the first to ban then-President Trump following the January 6 Capitol riot.
And in recent years, several alternative social networks have launched largely targeting conservatives who claim more mainstream services unduly restrict their speech.
These services include Trump’s Truth Social and Parler, which Kanye West recently said he would acquire.
While it’s unclear how far Musk could go in fulfilling his free speech dreams, any loosening of existing content moderation policies could effectively make Twitter, which provides a much larger audience, a more enticing service for some of the users who have fled to those smaller, fringe services. (Musk, however, could run into regulatory issues, especially in Europe, depending on how far he takes his efforts to loosen content restrictions.)
Despite his months-long attempt to get out of buying the company and his own recent remarks that he is “obviously overpaying” for it, Musk has tried to sound optimistic about Twitter’s potential.
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