Twitter reaches deal to sell to Elon Musk for about $44 billion

Suzanne Cordeiro, AFP via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing "Cyber Rodeo" grand opening party on April 7, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

Updated April 25, 2022 at 3:48 PM ET

Twitter has struck a deal with Elon Musk, handing the world’s richest man control of a social network that has far-reaching influence on politics and society.

Musk will pay about $44 billion, or $54.20 a share, to take the social media company private, according to an announcement from Twitter.

The agreement comes less than two weeks after Musk offered to buy Twitter, sending the company’s board and management into crisis mode as they scrambled to figure out whether Musk was serious and whether his offer fairly valued the company.

Musk has vowed to “unlock” Twitter’s potential by loosening what he sees as unfair restrictions on free speech.

“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 the announcement Monday.

The maverick entrepreneur is a prolific user and outspoken critic of Twitter, where he has more than 83 million followers and regularly posts memes, boosts his companies Tesla and SpaceX, and squabbles with critics.

Musk began accumulating Twitter shares in January. On April 4, he revealed that he’d become the company’s biggest individual shareholder. He began calling for changes to the platform, including loosening its rules over what users are allowed to post, banning bots that post spam, and making its algorithm public.

Musk tweeted on Monday, before the deal was announced, “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”

But some observers say if Musk relaxes content rules, Twitter could be overrun by misinformation and toxic posts.

“A platform that moderated only illegal speech would quickly be overcome by spam and garbage,” said Jameel Jaffer with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “That kind of platform wouldn’t work for anyone, whatever their political views.”

Other experts, including Paul Barrett with NYU’s Stern School for Business and Human Rights, have similar concerns.

“Without vigorous content moderation, the platform Musk seeks to own would be swamped by spam, porn, anti-vaccination misinformation, QAnon conspiracies, and fraudulent campaigns to undermine the midterms and 2024 presidential election,” Barrett said.

‘Poison pill’ afforded Twitter more time to consider offer

After accepting and then rejecting an invitation to join Twitter’s board, Musk dropped a new bombshell with his unsolicited $54.20-a-share offer to buy the whole company and take it private.

But lack of details about how Musk would finance the deal left many doubting he was serious. Twitter’s board quickly adopted a so-called “poison pill,” which served essentially as a speed bump, a way to slow down Musk from acquiring more shares in the public market, as company leadership weighed the offer.

“The Board got some extra time with the poison pill but ultimately had to get to the negotiation table with Musk to get this deal done as the clock struck midnight on Twitter’s history as a public company,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Last week, Musk announced he had lined up the money to take Twitter private. In a regulatory filing, he said Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and several other banks promised to lend $25.5 billion, backed in part by some of Musk’s Tesla shares, and that he would provide up to $21 billion in cash.

Those details may have shifted the board’s view. While Twitter’s stock hit highs above $70 a share last year, the company’s shares had fallen below $40 in recent months, amid lingering questions over its ability to grow.

“The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing. The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders,” said Bret Taylor, Twitter’s Independent Board Chair, in a statement.

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