The past ten days have been a wilder ride for Elon Musk than his SpaceX flights. A filing on April 4 revealed that the eccentric and outspoken billionaire had purchased 9.2% of Twitter’s stocks. This makes Musk the company’s largest stakeholder at the moment.
The sale caused Twitter shares to soar by 22%. Musk has not disclosed what he paid for the stake, but it was valued at $2.9 billion at the close of day on April 1 and then at $3.5 billion after Monday’s surge. News of this purchase came to light because investors who buy 5% or more of a company’s shares must record the transaction in a filing with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Though Wall Street considers less than 10% company ownership passive, this could be an indicator of Musk shaking things up at Twitter.
Musk has not shared a reason for the purchase or plans for the company. However, he is a vocal critic of Twitter’s policies, and last month, hinted at starting his own social media platform. In a tweet, he stated that a lack of free speech undermines the principles of democracy. Analysts have indicated that it is easier to revamp an existing platform rather than build one from scratch, and Musk’s purchase does hint that he wants to make changes at Twitter.
Fast forward to Tuesday, April 5. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced that the company’s largest stakeholder would be joining the board on April 9. However, on April 10, Agrawal shared that Musk would, in fact, not be joining the board of directors after all. He further added that input from all shareholders—board members or not—was valued. It alluded that Twitter would remain relatively open to Musk’s input.
At the time, no one could grasp why Elon Musk reversed his decision to join the Twitter board of directors. The proviso that joining the board meant Musk could own no more than 14.9% of the company was of little consequence then. Yet, that fact is front and center after more recent events.
After Twitter learned Musk would not be joining the board following four days of maniacal tweets, a frazzled staff resumed normal daily operations. The mood was described as “exhausted relief,” but this turned out to be the calm before the storm.
On April 14, Elon Musk’s Twitter activity dominated the headlines once more. This time, it was on a much larger scale: Musk offered $43 billion to buy out Twitter. His intention with this attempt is to create a safe haven for free speech. On Wednesday, the bid was placed in a letter to the board that Musk was slated to sit on.
Analysts predicted that Musk declining a board seat was a prelude to a takeover, and they were correct. In fact, Musk even hinted at bypassing the board and presenting the vote directly to shareholders. However, that might not be necessary as Twitter is evaluating the offer with assistance from financial powerhouses Goldman Sachs and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Yet, if Musk wants shareholders to make the decision, he might need to tweak his offer for Twitter. Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi prince, had strong opinions about the bid. Deeming himself one of the company’s largest long-time shareholders, the royal called Musk’s offer one that undervalued the organization as he rejected the bid.
Elon Musk initially told Twitter that $43 billion was his best and last offer. However, he immediately turned around and admitted that he would reconsider the number if the board rejected it. This is a passion project for Musk, who envisions a trusted and inclusive platform to advance humanity. He calls himself a “free speech absolutist” and has not held back in his criticism of Twitter’s policies after banning Donald Trump over concerns of the January 6 insurrection. Twitter employees are in a panic over the potential takeover as they realize it could impact their moderation capabilities.
When looking at the situation from a strictly financial aspect, Twitter has had low numbers of new users recently, raising doubts about its growth potential. In comparison to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Twitter had 217 million users and generated $5.08 billion in 2021, while Meta brought in $118 billion and logged a whopping 1.93 billion daily users.
Twitter is at a crossroads with this offer from the world’s wealthiest individual. The company has proven itself to be a consistent underperformer and is looking at a potential renaissance. If Twitter does not accept the offer, Elon Musk has made it very clear that he has a Plan B. For now, the world plays the waiting game as Twitter decides its fate.