Twitter said Monday it has agreed to sell itself to Elon Musk in a roughly $44 billion deal that has the potential to expand the billionaire’s business empire and put the world’s richest man in charge of one of the world’s most influential social networks.
The deal, which will take the company private, caps off a whirlwind period in which the Tesla and SpaceX CEO became one of Twitter’s largest shareholders, was offered and turned down a seat on its board and bid to buy the company – all in less than a month.
Under the terms of the deal, shareholders will receive $54.20 in cash-for-each-share of Twitter stock they own, matching Musk’s original offer and marking a 38% premium over the stock price the day before Musk revealed his stake in the company.
“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,” Musk said in a statement Monday. “Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
Musk is both a high-profile Twitter user and a controversial one. He has more than 83 million followers on the platform, which he has used over the years for everything from sharing memes and discussing his companies to insulting politicians, spreading misleading claims about Covid-19 and making offensive remarks about the transgender community, according to analysis on the CNN.
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.”
In his statement Monday, Musk said he wants 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.” Separately, he said in a tweet Monday that he hopes “even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
Still, some industry experts worry that Musk’s desire for free speech on Twitter could mean rolling back some of the platform’s work to curb hate-speech, misinformation, harassment and other harmful content. Others questioned whether Musk might restore former President Donald Trump’s account, which was removed early last year for violating Twitter policies against inciting violence following the Capitol Riot. Such a move could have significant ramifications for the upcoming 2024 US presidential election.
While Twitter is smaller than some social media rivals, it has an outsized influence in the online and offline worlds because it is used by many politicians, public figures and journalists, and has sometimes acted as a model for other platforms in how to handle harmful content.
“Do not allow Twitter to become a petri dish for hate speech, or falsehoods that subvert our democracy,” Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, said in a statement directed at Musk Monday following the deal.
It’s not clear whether Agrawal — who took over the CEO role from founder Jack Dorsey in November — will remain in the top job following the takeover. Musk previously tweeted a meme comparing Agrawal to former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Musk also said in his offer letter to buy Twitter that he does not “have confidence in management.”
The deal could, however, put an end to nearly a decade of chaos at Twitter as a public company, during which it has cycled through CEOs, grappled with an activist investor and struggled to ignite growth and successfully monetize its influential user base.