‘Free-speech absolutist’ Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44 billion
Billionaire Elon Musk has reached an agreement to acquire Twitter for approximately $44 billion, the company said.
The outspoken Tesla CEO, the world’s wealthiest person, has said he wants to buy Twitter because he thinks it’s not living up to its potential as a platform for “free speech.” He says it needs to be transformed as a private company in order to build trust with users and do better at serving what he calls the “societal imperative” of free speech.
Twitter said it will become a privately held company after the sale is closed.
“Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world,” its CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet. “Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important.”
Musk describes himself as a “free-speech absolutist,” although he hasn’t been exactly clear what he means by that.
Musk himself, though, regularly blocks social media users who have criticized him or his company and has used the platform to bully reporters who have written critical articles about him or his company.
Twitter’s board at first enacted an anti-takeover measure known as a poison pill that could have made a takeover attempt prohibitively expensive. But when Musk outlined the financial commitments he’d lined up to back his offer of $46.5 billion — and no other bidders emerged — the board opened negotiations with him.
NJ congresswoman criticizes deal
U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J. 12th District, reacted to the news by calling for a "Billionaire Minimum Income Tax."
Asked during a recent TED talk if there are any limits to his notion of “free speech,” Musk said Twitter or any forum is “obviously bound by the laws of the country that it operates in. So obviously there are some limitations on free speech in the US, and, of course, Twitter would have to abide by those rules.”
Beyond that, though, he said he’d be “very reluctant” to delete things and in general be cautious about permanent bans.
It won’t be perfect, Musk added, “but I think we want it to really have the perception and reality that speech is as free as reasonably possible."
Shares of Twitter Inc. rose 5% Monday to $51.50 per share. On April 14, Musk announced an offer to buy the social media platform for $54.20 per share, or about $43 billion, but did not say at the time how he would finance the acquisition.
Last week, he said in documents filed with U.S. securities regulators that the money would come from Morgan Stanley and other banks, some of it secured by his huge stake in Tesla.
Musk is the world’s wealthiest person, according to Forbes, with a nearly $279 billion fortune. But much of his money is tied up in Tesla stock — he owns about 17% of the electric car company, according to FactSet, which is valued at more than $1 trillion — and SpaceX, his privately held space company. It’s unclear how much cash Musk has.
Musk began making his fortune in 1999 when he sold Zip2, an online mapping and business directory, to Compaq for $307 million. He used his share to create what would become PayPal, an internet service that bypassed banks and allowed consumers to pay businesses directly. It was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.
That same year, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, after finding that cost constraints were limiting NASA’s interplanetary travel. The company eventually developed cost-effective reusable rockets.
In 2004, Musk was courted to invest in Tesla, then a startup trying to build an electric car. Eventually he became CEO and led the company to astronomical success as the world’s most valuable automaker and largest seller of electric vehicles.