Elon Musk takes control of Twitter in $44bn deal
The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has completed his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of Twitter, according to a filing with the US government.
Mr Musk tweeted “the bird is freed” and later said “let the good times roll”.
A number of top executives, including the boss, Parag Agrawal, have reportedly been fired.
Mr Agrawal and two other executives were escorted out of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday evening, said Reuters.
The completion of the deal brings to an end months of legal wrangling but it has prompted questions over the platform’s future direction.
A filing was made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, confirming the takeover.
The New York Stock Exchange said on Friday that trading in Twitter’s shares had been suspended, giving the reason as “merger effective”.
Chief financial officer Ned Segal, and the firm’s top legal and policy executive, Vijaya Gadde, are leaving alongside Mr Agrawal, according to US media reports.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone appeared to confirm the executives’ departure. In a tweet, he thanked all three for their “collective contribution to Twitter”, calling them “massive talents” and “beautiful humans”.
Meanwhile, Bret Taylor – who had served as Twitter’s chairman since last November – updated his LinkedIn profile to indicate that he was no longer in the post.
Mr Musk, a self-styled “free speech absolutist”, has been critical of Twitter’s management and its moderation policies.
They clashed over the terms of the takeover, with Mr Musk accusing Twitter of providing misleading information about the firm’s user numbers.
He has also said he would reverse bans on suspended users, which could include former US President Donald Trump, who was excluded following the Capitol riot in January 2021.
At the time, Twitter said there was a risk Mr Trump would incite further violence. But Mr Musk has described the ban as “foolish”.
Earlier this week, Mr Musk said that he doesn’t want the platform to become an echo chamber for hate and division. “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hell-scape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” he tweeted.
The takeover has prompted discussion among Twitter users over what the platform will look like under Mr Musk’s ownership.
There are fears that more lenient free speech policies would mean people banned for hate speech or disinformation may be invited back to the platform. As well as Mr Trump, that could include political extremists, QAnon loyalists and Covid-19 deniers.
In response to Mr Musk’s missive, Thierry Breton the EU commissioner for the internal market tweeted “In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU rules” suggesting regulators will take a tough stance against any relaxation of Twitter’s policies.
Mr Musk as well as being the world’s richest person with $250bn to his name, is a controversial figure.
He made his fortune through the electric car company Tesla, and space exploration firm Space X. But he has drawn additional attention by his outspoken intervention in unrelated matters, often using Twitter as the platform, ranging from geopolitical issues such as the war in Ukraine to the rescue of the schoolboys trapped in a Thai cave.
It is not clear yet whether the clear out of senior management is the forerunner to company-wide job cuts. Earlier reports suggested 75% of staff at the social media company were set to lose their jobs but those reports were “inaccurate”, according to Ross Gerber, a shareholder in both Twitter and Mr Musk’s other company Tesla.
“There are a lot of talented people at Twitter, especially on the engineering side and they want to retain as much of that talent as possible,” Mr Gerber told the BBC.
But he said the job losses could nevertheless extend far beyond upper management. Mr Musk might look to cut product managers and end projects “that aren’t going anywhere” he said.
A long road
Until recently it appeared the deal could still fall through.
After building a stake in Twitter at the start of the year, Mr Musk made his $44bn offer in April, a price tag that looked too high almost as soon as it was agreed.
He said he was buying it because he wanted “civilisation to have a common digital town square” and said he planned to clean up spam accounts and preserve the platform as a venue for free speech.
But by the summer he had changed his mind about the purchase, citing concerns that the number of fake accounts on the platform was higher than Twitter claimed.
The Elon Musk Show
From South Africa to Silicon Valley – the enigmatic, compelling and controversial inside story of the world’s richest man, as told by family, friends and enemies.
Watch Now on BBC iPlayer (UK Only)
Eventually Twitter executives took legal action to hold Mr Musk to his offer and while he recently admitted he and the other investors involved in the deal were “overpaying for Twitter right now”, the deal does now appear to have gone through.
But speculation continues around Mr Musk’s intentions for the platform.
Earlier this week, he changed his Twitter profile to read “Chief Twit” and some observers believe he will take the reins at the firm himself.
Mr Musk also tweeted a video of himself walking into Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco carrying a sink with the caption: “let that sink in!”
There has been no comment yet from Twitter about its new management team. But whoever becomes its next chief executive, it is clear that Mr Musk will ultimately be in charge of the company – a role he will have to balance with his management positions at both Tesla and SpaceX.
He sat briefly on Twitter’s board earlier this year, and criticised the firm’s strategy.
In private messages revealed in court filings, Mr Musk talked about how Mr Agrawal didn’t understand how to fix the social media platform’s problems.
Mr Musk has also posted that his plans for Twitter include more ambitious changes including “X, the app for everything”.
Some suggest this might be something along the lines of the hugely successful Chinese app WeChat, a kind of “super app” that incorporates different services including messaging, social media, payments and food orders.
Additional reporting by Lucy Hooker and Chris Vallance