Elon Musk to buy Twitter for $44 billion

Twitter on Monday reached an agreement to sell itself to Elon Musk for approximately $44 billion, leaving one of the world’s richest men in control of one of the most influential social media platforms.

The price per share agreed to in Monday’s deal is higher than the roughly $48 that the company was trading at before Musk first announced his stake, but significantly lower than the $70 shares were trading at last year.

Musk has said that he views the acquisition of Twitter as way to protect free speech, declaring during a conference earlier this month that the offer was “not a way to sort of make money.”

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said in a statement on Monday. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

He’s been less clear, however, about how Twitter is inhibiting free speech or how his leadership might facilitate dialogue. Efforts by alternative social media to be absolutist about free speech have suffered in the past when confronted with the reality that some content moderation is needed to make platforms useable.

Musk first offered to buy all outstanding shares of the company at $54.20 a share on April 14.

The deal was met with some skepticism over how the Tesla CEO would secure the funding needed to complete the deal.

Twitter’s board responded to the offer by adopting a so-called poison pill to prevent Musk from accumulating more than 15 percent of the company’s stock. Musk announced earlier this month that he had quietly acquired 9.2 percent of shares.

But after Musk revealed he had obtained commitments to finance the deal, according to multiple reports, Twitter’s board began negotiating the deal in earnest.

“The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing,” Bret Taylor, the chair of Twitter’s board, said in a Monday statement. “The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders.”

Musk has not publicly commented on whether he would restore the account of former President Trump, who was permanently banned from the platform shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, but his comments about free speech have stoked speculation that doing so may be a possibility.

Trump told Fox News Monday that he would not rejoin Twitter even if he is invited back to the platform.

“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” the former president said, referring to Truth Social, the Twitter-like platform launched by his media company earlier this year.

“I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH. … We’re taking in millions of people, and what we’re finding is that the response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter,” he added.

Truth Social has faltered out of the gates, with hundreds of thousands of potential users placed on a slow-moving wait list and users allowed on facing technical glitches.

Trump for his part has only posted on the platform once, despite his presence being one of the key selling points for using Truth Social over competitors such as Parler or Gettr.

Musk has been more vocal on other potential changes, including adding an edit button. Twitter recently announced it was studying an edit option.

He has also said he wants to make the company’s algorithms public, sharing access to code showing what posts are promoted or demoted.

Musk is a frequent tweeter, using the platform to post everything from memes to information about major business moves to his 83 million followers.

In 2018, he posted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share — a reference to smoking weed — an unsubstantiated claim that resulted in a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The path Musk has taken to acquire Twitter has ruffled some feathers among former and current employees of the company.

It appears that Musk was late to disclose when he acquired 5 percent of Twitter, potentially saving him more than $150 million but also resulting in a lawsuit by several shareholders.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on the specifics of the deal during a briefing but reiterated President Biden’s support for reforms to hold online platforms accountable.

“No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms,” Psaki told reporters.

Twitter staff has been divided by the news, The New York Times reported Monday, with many feeling frustrated by the lack of information they have gotten from management.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who replaced Jack Dorsey late last year, and Taylor, the board chairman, were set to answer questions from employees later Monday afternoon, according to a leaked note sent to staffers.

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