Elon Musk has formally taken over Twitter, triumphantly posting ‘the bird is freed’ and immediately firing several top executives. His next move will be to restore users who have been handed lifetime bans from the platform – including former US president Donald Trump. Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal, the chief financial officer Ned Segal and the top lawyer for the firm, Vijaya Gadde, were culled just hours after Musk finalized the $44 billion acquisition last night. Pictured: Musk posted a video of himself marching into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a porcelain sink on Wednesday.
The platform’s co-founder Biz Stone quickly took to Twitter to thank them for their ‘collective contribution to Twitter,’ adding ‘Massive talents, all, and beautiful humans each!’ Sean Edgett, the company’s general counsel, and chief customer officer Sarah Personette were also pushed out – as the Tesla boss set out to make his mark in his new position. Musk himself will take over as CEO, a source told Bloomberg – although it may only be an interim role.
The fired Twitter executives were hastily shuttled from the building, sources told The Washington Post. Billionaire Musk is set to hold a company-wide town hall meeting today. Twitter’s engineers could no longer make changes to code as of noon yesterday in San Francisco, part of an effort to ensure that nothing about the product changed ahead of the deal closing. Pictured: Vijaya Gadde, chief legal officer of Twitter, who was reportedly let go.
In a securities filing on April 14, Musk said he did not have confidence in Twitter’s management and initially vowed to sack 75 percent of the workforce when he formally bought the tech giant. Agrawal (pictured), who has repeatedly clashed with Musk over the number of users Twitter has, will walk away from his job with $42 million, after being chief executive officer for just under a year. His total compensation for 2021 was $30.4 million – largely in stock awards – after he was handed the top position following Jack Dorsey’s resignation last November.
Twitter’s former top lawyer Gadde (pictured), who earned $17 million in 2021, was reportedly in tears in April when Musk’s takeover first came to light. She has now been paid out $12.5 million for her troubles, Insider said.
Ex-CFO Ned Segal (pictured) – who was the man behind Mr Trump’s Twitter ban – also received the handsome sum of $25.4 million after being fired by Musk on Thursday evening.
And former CCO Sarah Personette (pictured) was handed $11.2 million as part of Musk’s house clearance. Despite Musk’s obvious delight with the astonishing deal which will go down in history, some experts have claimed that he has ‘overpaid’ for the platform. Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told the US Sun that the deal ‘will go down as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history of M&A deals on the Street in our opinion.’ Ives, who works for a LA-based investment firm, estimates the value of the company to be closer to $25billion rather than the $44billion. ‘With fair value that we would peg at roughly $25billion, Musk buying Twitter remains a major head-scratcher that ultimately he could not get out of once the Delaware Courts got involved,’ he said.
In the lead up to the South African’s buyout of the social media firm, the market positively reacted, with share prices visibly improving. They went up by 7.23 percent in the last five days and were up about 1 percent at $53.94 in early trading yesterday. The stock has surged nearly 65 percent from a four-month low hit in July. However, after Musk’s purchase, the the New York Stock Exchange’s website showed that Twitter shares would be suspended from trading. Pictured: Sean Edgett, the general counsel, has also reportedly been fired.
The South African publicly criticized Twitter’s existing leadership team – in particular, attacking their policies on content moderation and censorship. He has also sparred with them over data on how many accounts were bots or spam. This deal completion comes at the eleventh hour – just one day before Musk was going to be dragged back into court after being sued by Twitter for a back-and-forth he had over whether he was going to buy the company. On Wednesday, the billionaire changed his Twitter profile to identify himself as the ‘Chief Twit’ and posted a video of himself walking into the company’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a porcelain sink. This fueled rumors that Musk had closed the deal to buy Twitter in which he shared the clip with the caption: ‘Entering Twitter HQ, let that sink in.’
Agrawal, who took over from founder Jack Dorsey almost a year ago, has been at loggerheads with Musk over the number of genuine Twitter users, with Musk responding to a thread of Agrawal’s in May with a ‘poop’ emoji. When Musk first made his takeover bid in April, he said he had not been given accurate data about spam accounts and bots. Three months after launching his bid, Musk pulled out – insisting he had been misled about the size of the firm. Twitter has for years said that bots make up less than 5 percent of its ‘monetizable daily active users’ (mDAU).
In a series of tweets in May, Agrawal (pictured) acknowledged that ‘spam harms the experience for real people on Twitter,’ and added that, ‘as such, we are strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day.’ He insisted that Musk was exaggerating the scale of the problem. The South African-born Musk said as many as 25 percent of all Twitter accounts were not real. Twitter sued Musk to complete the deal, accusing him of using bots as a pretext to exit the deal after getting buyer’s remorse, and the deal was set to go to trial later this month. Musk himself took aim in April at Gadde for censoring stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop after it was reported she’d sobbed at news he’d bought the firm.
The tycoon wrote: ‘Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.’ Musk was referring to the suspension of the New York Post’s account for its exclusive about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the run-up to the 2020 election. Initially dismissed as ‘misinformation’ by liberal outlets and social media networks, the laptop and its contents have since been verified by many of the same publications.
The tech entrepreneur must now try and turn around the company’s finances. On October 19, he said Twitter was an asset that had ‘languished’ for a long time. ‘Myself and the other investors are obviously overpaying for Twitter right now,’ he said. ‘The long term potential for Twitter in my view is an order of magnitude greater than its current value.’ He has floated the idea of turning Twitter into an ‘everything app.’ The idea originated in Asia with companies such as WeChat, which lets users not only send messages but also make payments, shop online or hail a taxi. The all-in-one service appealed to users who had fewer choices in a region where Google, Facebook and others were blocked. Musk has told investors he plans to build one that will sell premium subscriptions to reduce reliance on ads, allow content creators to make money and enable payments, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Musk plans to lower the guard rails that are common across all social media platforms has lead to fears of a deluge of hateful, harmful and potentially illegal content on Twitter. Already, it has struggled with identifying and removing inappropriate child videos. Members of Twitter’s trust and safety team, which includes content moderators, are expected to be among Musk’s deepest job cuts, employees fear. ‘Imagine a world where all those people are gone,’ one employee said. ‘It’s going to be a hellscape.’ Yet Musk warned advertisers earlier yesterday that Twitter cannot become a ‘hellscape’ under his ownership.
The Tesla CEO sent a tweet to advertisers, saying that while he wants the social media giant to become a ‘digital town square’ it ‘obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.’ ‘Our platform must be warm and welcoming to all,’ he wrote, ‘where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.’ He added that he ‘very much believes that advertising… can delight, entertain and inform you,’ saying that when done properly, advertising ‘can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you.’ ‘For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs,’ the 51-year-old concluded in his letter, adding: ‘Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content!’
Musk also revealed his ‘motivation’ for buying the company in the open letter to advertisers, writing: ‘There has been much speculation about why I bought Twitter and what I think about advertising. Most of it is wrong.’ He said he acquired the company ‘because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.’ But, he wrote, ‘much of traditional media has fueled and catered’ to either the far-Right or the far-Left ‘as they believe that is what brings in the money, but in doing so, the opportunity for dialogue is lost. ‘That is why I bought Twitter,’ Musk wrote. ‘I didn’t do it because it would be easy. I didn’t do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love. And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.’
Musk was later pictured on Wednesday speaking with some employees, reportedly denying rumors that he is culling three quarters of the staff. But that did little to assuage the more than 7,500 people employed by the social media giant. As one Twitter employee explained in an anonymous essay for Business Insider, those who remain at the company are worried about the Tesla CEO’s volatility. ‘I don’t think my colleagues and I have a good model for how volatile he is — and I can see that rocking the boat, especially if he makes more comments that make people say, “What the hell?”‘ the anonymous Twitter employee wrote. ‘There are also people here who are just unfazed by his volatility,’ they continued. ‘They’re not going to react in any way.’ Pictured: The platform’s co-founder Biz Stone took to Twitter to thank those let go for their ‘collective contribution to Twitter.’
The employee noted that their fellow workers’ views of their new boss will all be contingent on how many people he lays off. ‘People are asking, if heads are going to roll, whose good graces do you need to be in to stay?’ the employee wrote, adding: ‘Most people think layoffs are going to be pretty immediate. I don’t think our site-reliability engineers need to be worried, though,’ they mused. ‘On the other hand, machine-learning engineers, or the people responsible for building experimental services are more worried.’ The Twitter employee then went on to say they would be most worried ‘if Musk decides to wipe out teams indiscriminately, because then it’s just a roll of the dice.’ In the meantime, several Twitter employees took to their social media platform to share how they are sticking together.
Stephanie Guevara, a senior iOS engineer for the platform, though, was more blunt — asking Musk directly: ‘Was it fun to look at the faces of the people you said you’d be laying off?’ And Parker Lyons expressed his nervousness about the new boss’ visit with a meme of a man on top of two tires lifting a sofa, captioned: ‘When Elon walks by your desk to see what you’re working on.’ Twitter management had already planned to cut staff after spending a whopping $1.5 billion last year on personnel, and had wanted to reduce that amount by some $800 million. It also spent hundreds of millions of dollars in contracting firms that pay people to review reports of hate speech, child videos and other rule-breaking content, corporate documents obtained by the Washington Post last week revealed. Pictured: Sarah Personette, who was let go.
Management also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, getting rid of data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users a day. But Musk expanded on the idea of layoffs, telling employees in June he didn’t see a reason why low-performing workers should remain on the payroll. He has also made clear he plans to loosen content moderation standards — which he claims are infringing on free speech. The billionaire has found himself in hot water previously for some of his views, including comments on transgender issues.
In 2020, he tweeted that ‘pronouns suck’ – then hastily deleted the post and said: ‘I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an aesthetic nightmare.’ He has also voiced support for Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who tabled the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Musk’s transgender daughter, Vivian Jenna Wilson, also cut ties with him earlier this year and said she ‘no longer [lives] with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.’
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