(AP) — 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. In a recent TED interview, the billionaire said he’d like to see Twitter err on the side of allowing speech instead of moderating it. He said he’d be “very reluctant” to delete tweets and would generally be cautious about permanent bans. He also acknowledged that Twitter would have to abide by national laws governing speech in markets around the world.
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.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
(AP)- Tesla CEO Elon Musk is offering to buy Twitter, saying the social media platform he has criticized for not living up to free speech principles needs to be transformed as a private company.
Twitter Inc. said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that Musk, currently the company’s biggest shareholder, has proposed buying the remaining shares of Twitter that he doesn’t already own at $54.20 per share, an offer worth more than $43 billion.
Musk called that price his best and final offer, although he provided no details on financing. The offer is non-binding and subject to financing and other conditions.
“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,” Musk said in the 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.”
Twitter said it has received Musk’s offer and will decide whether it is in the best interests of shareholders to accept or continue to operate as a publicly traded company.
Analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush said in a client note that he believes “this soap opera will end with Musk owning Twitter after this aggressive hostile takeover of the company.” He thinks it would be hard for any other bidders or consortium to come forward and said Twitter’s board will likely be forced to accept Musk’s offer or start a process to sell the company.
Musk revealed in regulatory filings over recent weeks that he’d been buying shares in almost daily batches starting Jan. 31, ending up with a stake of about 9%. Only Vanguard Group’s suite of mutual funds and ETFs controls more Twitter shares.
The billionaire has been a vocal critic of Twitter in recent weeks, mostly over his belief that it falls short on free speech principles. The social media platform has angered followers of Donald Trump and other far-right political figures who’ve had their accounts suspended for violating its content standards on violence, hate or harmful misinformation. Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist,” also has a history of his own tweets causing legal problems.
After Musk announced his stake, Twitter quickly offered him a seat on its board on the condition that he not own more than 14.9% of the company’s outstanding stock, according to a filing. But the company said five days later that he’d declined.
He didn’t explain why, but the decision coincided with a barrage of now-deleted tweets from Musk proposing major changes to the company, such as dropping ads — its chief source of revenue — and transforming its San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter. Musk left a few clues on Twitter about his thinking, such as by “liking” a tweet that summarized the events as Musk going from “largest shareholder for Free Speech” to being “told to play nice and not speak freely.”
Musk’s 81 million Twitter followers make him one of the most popular figures on the platform, rivaling pop stars like Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga. But his prolific tweeting has sometimes gotten him into trouble with the SEC and others.
Musk and Tesla in 2018 agreed to pay $40 million in civil fines and for Musk to have his tweets approved by a corporate lawyer after he tweeted about having the money to take Tesla private at $420 per share. That didn’t happen, but the tweet caused Tesla’s stock price to jump. Musk’s latest trouble with the SEC could be his delay in notifying regulators of his growing stake in Twitter.
Shares of Twitter jumped 11% before the market open. The stock is still down from its 52-week high of about $73. Shares of Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer that Musk heads, slipped about 0.9%.