(The Hill) – 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 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 about what about Twitter’s current operations are 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.
The Tesla CEO 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 the national holiday for 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.
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 chief executive Parag Agrawal, who replaced Jack Dorsey late last year, and Taylor were set to answer questions from employees later Monday afternoon, according to a leaked note sent to staffers.