- Musk said “the bird was released” after the $44 billion deal
- Musk fires Twitter’s CEO, CFO and head of policy
- Some Twitter users are hinting that they are ready to go
- The survey shows the job concerns of employees
- EU warns: “This bird will fly according to our rules”
Oct 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk took over ownership of Twitter Inc ( TWTR.N ) with brutal efficiency, firing top executives but providing little clarity on how he will achieve his ambitions for the influential social media platform.
After completing its $44 billion acquisition on Thursday, he tweeted, “The bird is free,” referring to Twitter’s bird logo, making clear his desire to see the company place fewer restrictions on the content that can be posted.
The CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc ( TSLA.O ) and a self-described absolutist for freedom of expression, however, said he wanted to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hatred and division.
Other goals include a desire to “defeat” spambots on Twitter and make publicly available the algorithms that determine how content is presented to users.
However, Musk did not provide details on how he will achieve all this and who will run the company. He said he plans to cut jobs, leaving Twitter’s 7,500 employees worried about their future. He also said Thursday that he bought Twitter not to make more money, but “to help humanity, which I love.”
In a poll on whether Twitter employees would be employed by the company three months from now on the blind messaging app, less than 10% said yes. Of the 266 participants, 38% said “No” and more than 55% chose the “popcorn” option. Blind allows employees to anonymously message to express their grievances, which employees can register with their corporate email.
Musk fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and head of legal affairs and policy Vijaya Gadde, according to people familiar with the matter. He accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors about the number of fake accounts on the platform.
Sources added that Agrawal and Segal were at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters when the deal closed and accompanied them.
Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, plans to become Twitter’s CEO after completing the acquisition and also plans to remove permanent bans on users, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Twitter, Musk and executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters Wednesday with a big smile and a porcelain sink, and later tweeted, “Let it sink in.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit”.
He also sought to assuage fears among employees that major layoffs are coming, and reassured advertisers that Twitter’s past criticism of its content moderation rules will not hurt its appeal.
“Twitter clearly cannot become a free-for-all hell where anything can be said without consequence!” Musk said in an open letter to advertisers on Thursday.
As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users expressed their desire to walk away.
“I’d be happy to leave in a heartbeat if Musk acts like we all expect him to,” said one user with the @mustlovedogsxo account.
European regulators also reiterated earlier warnings under Musk that Twitter must comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes hefty fines on companies if they don’t police illegal content.
“In Europe, the bird will fly by EU rules,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted on Friday morning, posting a short video of Breton and Musk responding to themselves after meeting last May.
In a sign of the challenges ahead, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was banned from Twitter last year for violating its hate and abusive behavior guidelines, took to Instagram to applaud Musk’s takeover and share fans’ demands for her account to be reinstated.
Musk also said he would lift the ban on Donald Trump, which was lifted after the attack on the US Capitol in May. The former US president has said he will not be returning 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 stated that he sees Twitter as the key to creating a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and riding.
But Twitter is struggling to attract its most active users, who are vital to the business. These “heavy tweets” account for less than 10% of total monthly users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.
The road to the deal’s realization was full of twists and turns that made it doubtful whether it would happen. It began on April 4 when Musk disclosed his 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the company’s largest shareholder.
The world’s richest man later agreed to join Twitter’s board, but backed out at the last minute and instead offered to buy the company for $54.20 per share.
Musk’s offer was realistic, and in just one weekend after April, the two sides agreed on the proposed price. This happened without Musk doing any due diligence into 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 later accused Twitter of failing to comply with requests for information on the subject.
On July 8, Musk took to Twitter to say he was canceling the deal. Four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.
By then, the stock market was mired in worries about a potential recession. Twitter accused Musk of buyer’s remorse, claiming he wanted out of the deal because he thought he had overpaid.
Most legal analysts said Twitter had the strongest case and would likely win the case.
On October 4, when Musk was scheduled to be ousted by Twitter’s lawyers, he made another U-turn, offering to complete the deal as promised. He made it just one day before the judge’s deadline to avoid going to court.
Shares of Twitter ended Thursday trading up 0.3% at $53.86, below the consensus price. The stock will be delisted on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
Reporting by Sheila Dang and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi and Myong Kim in Singapore; Edited by Nick Zieminski, Edwina Gibbs, and Matt Scuffham
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