In a letter to Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor, Musk said he believes the company has the “potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe.”
Free speech is a “societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he added. But since his investment, he has come to “realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Twitter confirmed in an unsigned news release Thursday that it had received an “unsolicited, nonbinding proposal” from Musk. “The Twitter Board of Directors will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.”
The move comes after a wild two weeks between Musk and Twitter, which was full of head fakes and at least one lawsuit.
While Musk is a prolific Twitter user with more than 80 million followers, he also is a frequent critic: In late March, as he spent days opining on the necessity of “free speech,” he’d suggested in a tweet that he was considering launching his own social media company. On April 4, he disclosed he’d acquired a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter, becoming its largest shareholder. Such a stake gives him leverage over the company moving forward; if he decided to sell his shares, it could send the company’s stock price sharply lower.
That leaves Twitter’s leaders with a tough choice: either accept Musk’s offer and be subject to the influence of a company owner with strong opinions on its path forward, or reject his bid and likely face financial consequences for the stock.
The company’s share price closed Wednesday near $46. It soared more than 10 percent in premarket trading Thursday, but pulled back during the regular session. By late morning, it was trading up 1.9 percent, near $46.75 a share. Musk’s $54.20 a share offer would value the company at $43 billion, according to Wedbush senior analyst Dan Ives.
On April 5, Twitter surprised employees and investors by announcing that Musk would join its board of directors. Days later, however, Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal announced that Musk had backed out.
“There will be distractions ahead, but our goals and priorities remain unchanged,” Agrawal wrote. “The decisions we make and how we execute remain unchanged. The decisions we make and how we execute is in our hands, no one else’s. Let’s tune out the noise, and stay focused on the work and what we’re building.”
Joining the board would have “handcuffed” him from fully acquiring the company, noted CFRA equity researcher Angelo Zino in an email to The Post.
Board membership also would bestow Musk with certain fiduciary responsibilities, such as requiring him to act in the best interests of the company.
Over the weekend, Musk unloaded a series of sharply barbed tweets at the company. “Is Twitter dying?” he asked early Saturday morning. He went on to question Twitter’s most popular users, its San Francisco headquarters and its process for authenticating accounts. Before he was done, he made a lewd joke about changing the company’s name.
This is not Musk’s first time expressing intentions to take a company private — and not even the first such overture to include a reference to “420,” a number associated with the unofficial pot-smoking holiday of April 20.
The price of the takeover bid ― $54.20 per share ― may be a veiled reference to a previous episode that landed Musk in trouble with the securities regulators. In 2018 Musk tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share ― a possible reference to the holiday. He later paid a $20 million fine and resigned as board chairman following an SEC lawsuit.
Musk’s takeover bid was met with mixed reactions Thursday.
Some right-wing politicians cheered Musk’s takeover attempt, playing into a broader backlash against the social media platform since it permanently banned former president Donald Trump in early 2021.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Col.) said Musk deserves a medal for his “patriotic and necessary” fight for free speech. Nigel Farage, a British broadcaster and former politician who was a leader of the Brexit movement, called Musk’s takeover bid the best news for free speech in years.
“The panic coming from blue-check media after Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter is the fear of losing the ability to censor conservatives online and silence free speech they don’t like,” tweeted Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
Others appeared concerned that Musk could acquire too much control over a platform that many view as essential to free speech. Fred Wilson, a New York-based venture capitalist, said the platform is “too important” to be owned and controlled by a single person.
“The opposite should be happening,” Wilson tweeted. “Twitter should be decentralized as a protocol that powers an ecosystem of communication products and services.”
Ives said he suspects Musk will succeed in his bid to acquire Twitter, though questions remain around financing, regulations, and balancing Musk’s time between his two other companies, SpaceX and Tesla. Musk is also the world’s richest person, with a net worth of $273.6 billion, according to the Forbes Real Time Billionaires List.
“The next step will be Twitter’s Board officially reviewing the Musk filing/letter and then it’s get-out-the-popcorn time as we expect many twists and turns in the weeks ahead as Twitter and Musk walk down this marriage path,” Ives wrote in a note to investors.
Reed Albergotti contributed to this report.