Elon Musk, the well-known CEO of Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX, has officially acquired a 9% stake in Twitter. While this may not seem like his greatest business venture, this currently makes him the largest shareholder for the company with over 73 million shares totaling about $3 billion, according to the Associated Press.
Musk has what some may call a ‘love/hate relationship’ with the social networking site. Having amassed over 81 million followers on the platform, Musk has been extremely vocal about his views on freedom of speech and how he believes Twitter does not uphold the United States first amendment. National Public Radio (NPR) reported that, in 2018, Musk was fined $40 million by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and forced to give up his position as chairman of Tesla due to a tweet claiming that the CEO was planning to make the electric car manufacturer private. This only further instigated Musk who has recently been highly critical of Twitter and its policies.
On March 25, he shared a tweet reading, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” and included a survey with the options ‘Yes’ (29.6%) or ‘No’ (70.4%). He replied to this tweet by saying, “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.” The following day Musk asked his followers “what should be done” about Twitter “failing to adhere to free speech principles” and responded to his tweet with “Is a new platform needed?”
Prior to these posts, Musk began gradually purchasing substantial amounts of share in the company on January 31st reaching a 5% stake in the company by March 14th. While Musk continued to purchase more Twitter shares, he failed to notify the SEC that he owned over 5% stake in the company within 10 days which is a violation of US securities laws (Associated Press). Once Musk formally disclosed his business dealings to the SEC, Twitter shares increased by 27% as reported by CNBC. On April 4th, Musk agreed to become a member of Twitter’s board of director which would prohibit him from owning more than 14.9% of the company. However, Musk chose to decline the offer before his appointment to the board became official (NPR).
Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, released a statement on Twitter stating that, after Musk shared that he no longer desired a position on the board, he believes “this is for the best.” Agrawal continued by saying, “we have and will always value input from out shareholders weather they are on our Board or not.”
Despite Musk’s large stake in Twitter, he continues to share tweets questioning the vitality of the social media platform but has deleted several controversial tweets by Monday morning. Musk was expected to hold a question-and-answer session with employees of Twitter, but the event was cancelled on Monday leaving employees and users with more questions than answers.
Within less than two weeks, Elon Musk has turned into Twitter’s potential owner along with their biggest critic. Yesterday, the Tesla CEO filed an offer with the SEC to buy the company outright for over $43 billion. The document was conveniently linked in a tweet posted by Musk on April 14th. Musk says he will continue to passionately fight for complete freedom of speech as well as endeavoring to keep as many shareholders in privatized Twitter as allowed by law, according to his Twitter. This offer has caused some uncertainty with Twitter board members, leading CEO Parag Agrawal to remind his employees of the “distractions ahead” and advising them to “tune out the noise and stay focused on work.” (Associated Press) The future of Twitter and its potential owner remains unclear at this time.