By Andrew Moran
Twitter’s Board of Directors has approved Elon Musk’s offer to purchase the social media firm and take it private in a transaction valued at about $44 billion, the company announced Monday.
The company accepted the billionaire’s proposal of $54.20 per share.
“Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world. Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important,” said CEO Parag Agrawal in the corporate announcement.
“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,” said Musk in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential—I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
It has been a roller coaster ride in this saga since Musk first acquired a 9.2 percent stake in the tech company earlier this month. From rejecting a seat on the Board of Directors to multiple Twitter polls sponsored by the billionaire CEO, there have been many twists and turns in recent weeks.
Despite the uncertainty stemming from Musk’s tweets and the constant corporate developments, shares have rallied more than 30 percent on the news, topping $50 a share.
The Elon Musk List of Changes
The primary objective behind Musk’s takeover crusade has been to advance the cause of free speech on the social media outlet. Musk has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and referred to the website as “a de facto public town square.”
“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk wrote on Twitter just before the announcement of the deal.
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he stated according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.
“However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Musk revealed his reluctance about permanent bans, preferring to install “time-outs.” Or, if a controversial tweet is posted, Musk wants to “let the tweet exist.”
In March, he purported that Twitter’s algorithm should be open-source, with code posted on Github to spot mistakes or recommend adjustments.
Musk later suggested that users should have the tools to learn if their posts are promoted or demoted without any kind of behind-the-scenes manipulation.
“Having a black-box algorithm promote some things and not other things, I think this can be quite dangerous,” Musk said during an interview at a TED Conference in Vancouver last week.
For years, Twitter users have been clamoring for an edit button on the digital platform.
Musk spotlighted the concept again in an Apr. 4 Twitter poll, asking his users, “Do you want an edit button?” More than four million people voted, with a majority endorsing the concept.
Another proposal is an overhaul of Twitter Blue, the company’s first subscription service with access to exclusive special features.
Some of these options include cutting the subscription price, removing advertisements, and paying in Dogecoin.
“Everyone who signs up for Twitter Blue (ie pays $3/month) should get an authentication checkmark,” he tweeted.
“Price should probably be ~$2/month, but paid 12 months up front & account doesn’t get checkmark for 60 days (watch for CC chargebacks) & suspended with no refund if used for scam/spam.”
“And no ads. The power of corporations to dictate policy is greatly enhanced if Twitter depends on advertising money to survive,” Musk added.
Moreover, Musk considered Twitter blue pricing to “be proportionate to affordability & local currency.”
Can Musk Save the Company?
Twitter user numbers have fallen short of Wall Street estimates, and the company recorded a $221 million loss in 2021.
In the fourth quarter, Twitter confirmed that its monetizable daily active users increased by six million to 217, below the market forecast of 218.5 million. Ad revenues in the October-to-December period totaled $1.41 billion, under Wall Street’s $1.43 billion target.
Ultimately, Twitter usage has been disappointing over the last decade. In 2013, the platform had more than 200 million active users. Today, it has approximately 113 million, behind Facebook (200 million), Instagram (164 million), and TikTok (114.5 million).
“Where Twitter goes from here following Musk’s acquisition is honestly anybody’s guess,” Aron Solomon, chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital, told The Epoch Times. “What is certain is that Musk and any other people who helped facilitate his bid are banking on the fact that Elon Musk at the helm of Twitter is going to cause not only a spike in the price of the shares, but allow Twitter to grow and scale as it has yet to prove that it can do in its history.”
If Musk ‘Transforms’ Twitter, Will They Come Back?
Over the last couple of years, many Twitter alternatives have been popping up, including Truth Social, Parler, and Gettr. It is difficult to determine if users who flocked to these social media platforms will return to Twitter after “banning and suppressing” many users, says Terry Sawchuk, the CEO of Sawchuk Wealth.
Of course, the one person that a lot of users are waiting for is former President Donald Trump. Will he be reinstated, or will the real estate billionaire mogul even come back at this point?
“I don’t think that there’s a high degree at all for Trump to go back,” noted Sawchuk. “He’s obviously not real happy with the way he’s been treated, and Trump’s not the type of guy that is probably gonna make amends on that.”
The other issue is that Trump has too much money invested in Truth Social.
“I just don’t see Donald Trump ever going back to Twitter,” he stated.
For the rest of the public, “it’s a little bit like a bad relationship where you just keep going back,” added Sawchuk. “But, I think, if they really do get their act together, the love is still there and I think people will kind of forget about it and move on.”
Industry observers are now saying if any updates, should they be enacted, will be enough to attract new users or bring back the ones who abandoned the platform years ago.
Following the announcement of the deal, the company is anticipated to make immediate changes, beginning with the replacement of CEO Agrawal.
Musk has stated that the platform stifles free expression, particularly since Agrawal took over the management from Jack Dorsey. Musk had already indicated his opposition to Agrawal’s appointment.
Additionally, the takeover story will continue to bring attention to, and possibly expand, the platform’s users and their engagement, generating additional ad dollars, according to some analysts.
Investors will undoubtedly be watching the first-quarter corporate earnings report on Thursday.
Goldman Sachs has slapped a “Sell” rating on Twitter stock, giving it a price target of $30.
Emel Akan contributed to this report.