Elon Musk has now officially acquired Twitter for $44 billion and avoided a court confrontation with the shareholders. As a statement and victory lap, the eccentric billionaire immediately fired four top executives of the company and paid a visit to the San Francisco headquarters to make the point.
The largest private acquisition in history officially culminated after a six-month long drama in which Mr. Musk tried to backtrack on his original offer, then promised to pay $1 billion in fees, and then eventually ended up completing the deal on its original terms less than one day before the beginning of a trial in the Delaware Chancery Court on Friday.
During the preceding two days, Musk visited the company’s main office in San Francisco holding a porcelain sink in his hands, declaring that he wanted to “Let that sink in”. The 49-year-old investor also changed his twitter bio to “Chief Twit”.
Some of the first steps he took after the deal was closed was to fire the CEO Parag Agrawal, with whom Musk had a prolonged twitter war a few months earlier, as well as the Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, policy guru Vijaya Gadde, and general counsel Sean Edgett. No replacements have been announced so far.
After bringing one of the world’s largest Social Media platforms into his private ownership, Musk is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges as he struggles to fulfil the lofty (and sometimes contradictory) plans he has laid out for the company.
The foremost policy issue over which Mr. Musk decided to acquire the platform is that of ‘free speech’. In one interview at the start of the entire saga, Musk had told an interviewer that the deal was “Not a way to make money”.
Mr. Musk has been very loud in his criticism of the platform’s content regulation policies in the past. Considering himself a ‘free speech absolutist’, Musk has previously said that permanent account bans should be “Extremely rare”, with shadow-banning or temporary suspensions more appropriate due to Twitter’s nature as “A town square”. On the completion of the deal, Musk tweeted: “The bird is freed”, referring to the company logo.
The Tesla co-founder has also expressed his vision of converting the social media giant into an “Everything app” or “Super app”, a concept that originated in China, and which many experts consider impractical for the American market due to existing competition from the much-larger Google and Apple. Musk, who wrote: “I hate advertising” in 2019, has allegedly plans for ‘premium subscriptions’ to replace ads as the primary revenue source for the company in the near future, but immediately rushed to assure corporate partners of policy continuity immediately after the acquisition.
The broader ramifications of this acquisition will only become clear in the long run. Some analysts have raised concerns that the single-handed control of such an important platform could fundamentally reshape both public discourse and the Social Media market, which is still in relatively early stages.
Others point to the close links between Musk’s business interests and the People’s Republic of China. Given China’s stringent surveillance state, this connection might pose a data security threat to the private information of hundreds of millions of people worldwide which could now be compromised at the whim of a single person.