Elon Musk has taken control of Twitter and ousted its CEO and at least two other top executives, according to numerous reports.
Two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press Thursday night that CEO Parag Agrawal and Twitter’s chief financial officer and top lawyer had been shown the door.
The sources wouldn’t say if all the paperwork for the deal, originally valued at $44 billion, had been signed or whether the deal had closed. But they said Musk is in charge of the social media platform. Neither source wanted to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the personnel moves.
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment when reached by CBS News, but Musk himself tweeted late Thursday that “the bird is freed,” referring to Twitter’s famous logo and indicating he was indeed in charge.
The move to close the deal, which came a day before a court-imposed deadline to finalize the transaction, caps a tumultuous six-month pursuit in which the billionaire launched his shock bid for Twitter this spring, only to reverse course in July and declare he was withdrawing it.
His swift dismissal of Twitter’s top two executives punctuates what is expected to be a period of dramatic change at the social media company. And where Musk — a serial entrepreneur whose companies have disrupted the payments, auto and space exploration sectors — takes Twitter now is anyone’s guess.
Now for the hard part
“As we have discussed, the easy part for Musk was buying Twitter,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a report. “The difficult part, and Everest-like uphill battle looking ahead, will be fixing this troubled asset.”
Ives added that the $44 billion price tag on the purchase “will go down as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history of M&A deals.” He values Twitter at closer to $25 billion.
With Musk taking the helm, attention will turn to what steps he can take to revitalize Twitter, whose growth has slowed sharply in recent years. In the short term, that could involve laying off up to three-quarters of Twitter’s workforce, The Washington Post reported last week. Musk, who has been vocal in saying he overpaid for Twitter, might find it tempting to slash labor costs as a way to balance the books.
More challenging will be devising a strategy to drive growth at Twitter, whose roughly 238 million regular users pale in comparison to other social networks like Facebook and TikTok. On that front, Musk has previously floated the idea of creating a “super app,” (which Musk has previously referred to as “X app”) like WeChat, which in China is used for everything from banking and hailing a ride to buying groceries and chatting with friends.
“Musk took over Twitter last night and now major questions will remain around changes to the platform, monetization efforts, the level of headcount cuts on the horizon and the long-term strategy around the ‘X’ App and building a potential WeChat model down the road,” Ives said.
Also remaining to be seen is how Musk might change Twitter’s user policies. In launching his unsolicited bid in April, he highlighted the company’s “potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe,” while noting that Twitter in its current form “will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative.”
By contrast, one advantage for Musk is that in buying Twitter he is also taking it private. That means the company will no longer have to publicly reveal its financial results, compensation practices and other information that widely held companies are legally required to disclose in their securities filings.
And with no public shareholders Twitter’s leaders will face less pressure to steer the company in a way that appeases investors, notes Erik Gordon, a professor of business at the University of Michigan.
Will Donald Trump return?
That imperative could include allowing former President Donald Trump back on Twitter, which permanently suspended him from the platform last year in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, citing the risk of further violence.
“I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country,” Trump said Friday in a post on Truth Social, the conservative-leaning social network backed by his media company. “Twitter must now work hard to rid itself of all of the bots and fake accounts that have hurt it so badly. It will be much smaller, but better.”
Musk, meanwhile, had been signaling that the deal was going through. He strolled into the company’s San Francisco headquarters Wednesday carrying a porcelain sink, changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit,” and tweeted “Entering Twitter HQ — let that sink in!”
And overnight the New York Stock Exchange notified investors that it will suspend trading in shares of Twitter before the opening bell Friday in anticipation of the company going private under Musk.
— Alain Sherter contributed reporting.