BREAKING: Twitter agrees to Musk buyout

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Aaaaaannndhilarity ensues! Or at least no small amount of schadenfreude:

Twitter on Monday agreed to be acquired for around $44 billion in cash by Elon Musk, just weeks after the tech mogul launched his unsolicited, take-it-or-leave-it offer. …

By the numbers: Musk is paying $54.20 per share and is personally responsible for around half of the financing. The rest comes via loans from, or arranged by, Morgan Stanley. No word yet on if he’s managed to secure equity partners.


That’s the scoop from Axios. CNN’s take sounds slightly more dire:

The deal would put the world’s richest man in charge of one of the world’s most influential social media platforms. Musk has repeatedly stressed in recent days that his goal is to bolster free speech on the platform and work to “unlock” Twitter’s “extraordinary potential.”

True, we’re going to have a multi-billionaire in charge of the most immediate of the social-media platforms. It’s anyone’s guess as to how that will differ from having other billionaires in charge of it, but it’s clear from the reaction that people expect it to be a lot different … somehow.

To be fair, Musk himself is promising big changes:

“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,” said Mr. Musk. “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.”

In other words, Musk didn’t cough up a sixth of his total net worth just to maintain the status quo.


How much and how soon can we expect to see changes? If some of the griping from inside Twitter when Musk first floated the bid is trustworthy, maybe we’ll see some addition by subtraction before Musk even gets there. Supposedly the employees at Twitter threatened to walk out if the board contemplated accepting Musk’s offer. Will they follow through? Some might, especially those in the units responsible for content moderation. And that might solve a few problems before Musk even arrives at the corporate offices.

I suspect, however, that the vast majority of Twitter employees will be just as curious as the rest of us to find out what Musk will do. Imagine getting paid to have a front-row seat to one of the oddest and yet most significant semi-hostile buyouts ever, and the most significant transfer of control in the tech era. Even if you think the end result will suck, you can’t just walk away from the inside look at the sea change.

The next question will be who will run Twitter. Musk has been talking as though he’ll personally run the company, and he may well decide to do so for a while, but … he’s a pretty busy uber-billionaire, too. It seems more likely that Musk will hire someone to run the company based on his free-speech philosophies, with a lot of supervision to make sure those get implemented. Assuming, of course, that Musk really does have a transformative plan in mind rather than just recalculating the winners and losers of interventionist moderation. That’s still a possibility, but would Musk have spent $44 billion just to change the flavors? Naaaah.


Update: Indeed.

Update: Do you regularly check to see if parties have rules before deciding to attend?

There’s actually a good point made here with regard to advertising. Musk didn’t buy Twitter just to burn dollars; he’ll want to generate income from his latest company. To some extent, advertisers will expect some minimal content moderation, just so that ads don’t end up appearing to endorse extreme declarations. But as to Stelter’s question, I’d far prefer going to a party that has no rules than a party that tells me I either have to agree with the host or get my mouth taped shut. Just sayin’.

Update: I’m seeing a whole lot of potential candidates for the Judge Elihu Smails Award for performative outrage over the wrong rich person being let into the party. Marc Andreesen nominates Robert Reich, for instance. [Sadly, Marc deleted the tweet, but perhaps he’ll repost it.]


Let’s see if we can’t get more nominees. But just remember, like Hot Chocolate once sang, everyone’s a winner …

Update: Ah, Megan McArdle has the Reich nomination. Not so long ago, Reich claimed that moderation policies were a free-market issue. Now that Musk has availed himself of the free market, though, suddenly he looks like Al Czervik to Reich:

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