Well, I don’t think anyone saw that coming, not in a realistic sense at least.
But obviously Elon Musk is serious about his efforts to better align Twitter with free speech principles, with Tesla’s billionaire CEO offering a hostile $43 billion takeover bid for the app.
According to Musk’s SEC memo:
“I invested in Twitter because I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the world, and I believe that free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment, I now realize that the business will not thrive or serve this societal imperative in its current form.
Musk has been to staunch supporter of freedom of expressionand has often criticized Twitter’s moderation efforts, including its decision to ban former US President Donald Trump.
Last week, before it was revealed that Musk was buying Twitter stock (which he’s been steadily accumulating since January), Musk noted that Twitter needed to adhere to “free speech principles” to truly serve its purpose.
Since Twitter serves as the city’s de facto public square, failure to uphold the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy.
What should be done? https://t.co/aPS9ycji37
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
That’s apparently the impetus for Musk’s takeover bid, with Musk now outlining a vague plan to make Twitter privately owned, to reduce its dependence on shareholders and advertising dollars, allowing it thus to make truly independent decisions for the good of public debate.
“I am offering to buy 100% of Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash, a 54% premium to the day before my investment in Twitter and a 38% premium to the day before the announcement my investment. My offer is my best and last offer and if it is not accepted, I will have to reconsider my position as a shareholder.
Market analysts say Musk’s bid is low, given that Twitter shares recently hit $70. But it could still be tempting, and it’s enough to at least be taken seriously as a legitimate takeover bid.
If Musk’s takeover offer is accepted, Twitter will likely see significant changes, and really, all bets are off as to what happens to the app next. But if the offer is rejected, Musk hinted that he would likely retire from the business altogether.
“If the deal doesn’t work out, given that I don’t have confidence in management nor do I believe I can drive the necessary change in the public market, I will have to reconsider my position as a shareholder. It’s not a threat, it’s just not a good investment without the changes that need to be made.
It will be interesting to see if this also includes Musk removing his twitter accountwhich currently has over 81 million followers, and is a key media tool for the sometimes eccentric billionaire.
Following the revelation that Musk had become Twitter’s largest individual shareholder earlier in the month (until Vanguard Group bought more shares to overtake him), Musk began polling his Twitter followers with questions about how to “fix” the platform. Musk was then reportedly advised to stop tweeting critical comments, as a pending Twitter board member, which later led to Musk withdrawing his interest in joining the board entirely.
It appears Musk was unhappy with the response he received from Twitter management, as he is now looking to wholesale replace them and start afresh with the company.
It’s an extraordinary move, and one that again raises questions about the disproportionate power of the billionaire class. Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, owns the Washington Post, and some have suggested he is now more supportive of Bezos’ positions in his editorial coverage (note: independent studies have found little or no evidence of bias in Post reporting since Bezos’ acquisition).
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wields significant power as the owner of several of the most widely used social media apps, while Apple and Google, although not independently controlled by a single wealthy founder of the Similarly, can also exercise a level of control over the reach of media through their heavily used digital properties.
In Musk’s case, he clearly doesn’t like what Twitter is doing, and being wealthy enough as he is, he’s looking to do something about it, which could have far-reaching consequences, in many ways.
Overall, I’d say the likelihood of Musk’s takeover offer being accepted is not high – but again, I never would have guessed that Musk would make such an aggressive push into Twitter shares, or even that it would go into hostile takeover mode for the application.
So who knows how it goes? In some ways, it seems like just enough of an offer to be taken seriously, but not enough to actually be accepted.
But maybe Twitter will become “Tesla Social,” and memes and jokes about “420” (note Musk’s bid price) and all the other “edgelord” trends will dominate in this new sewer led by “freedom of expression”.
It’s pretty ominous to think about – but maybe it could happen, which could spell the end of Twitter as we know it.