Twitter has agreed to be acquired by Elon Musk in a deal that values the company at $44 billion, the board announced Monday afternoon.
“The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders,” Bret Taylor, the company’s independent board chair, said in a statement.
Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, reiterated his plans to remake Twitter as a forum dedicated to promoting free speech.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Musk also said he plans on “making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans” on the platform.
It’s the largest deal to take a company private in at least two decades, the New York Times reported.
The board voted unanimously in favor of the acquisition. The deal is expected to close this year, subject to the approval of Twitter’s shareholders.
No white knight
The official acquisition caps off a drama worth of a soap opera between the famously mercurial Musk and one of the world’s most prominent social networks.
The billionaire disclosed earlier this month that he had become Twitter’s largest shareholder, and soon after proposed to buy the company outright and take it private. Twitter’s board initially resisted the offer, adopting an anti-takeover measure known as a poison pill.
But the board decided to negotiate after Musk updated his proposal to show he had secured financing and after no other suitors came forward, according to media reports.
“It all came down to no other bidders or white knights emerging in the M&A process,” Daniel Ives, a Wedbush analyst who follows Twitter, said in a note. Board members’ “back was against the wall once Musk detailed his $46 billion in financing last week to get pen to paper on this deal,” Ives said.
Changes to Twitter coming
Musk, a prolific tweeter with 83 million followers, describes himself as a “free-speech absolutist.” He has previously described changes he would like to see on the platform, including an end to content moderation, dropping ads from the platform, cracking down on spam and letting users edit tweets.
In a recent TED interview, Musk 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. Musk said it was “quite dangerous” to have “tweets be mysteriously promoted and demoted” and having a “black-box algorithm.” He also acknowledged that Twitter would have to abide by national laws governing speech in markets around the world.
News of the takeover has polarized Twitter users. Republicans in Congress have pushed for Musk to reinstate the account of former President Donald Trump, the platform’s most famous tweeter before he was permanently banned in the wake of the January 6 assault on the Capitol. But liberals as well as academics who study online speech cautioned that Musk’s influence could open up the platform for abuse and mud-slinging.
“Handing Musk the reins to Twitter will undoubtedly unleash the conspiracy theories that the platform has attempted to squelch, and any attempt to use the platform for legitimate information sharing will be overshadowed by a toxic cesspool of misinformation,” the nonprofit Media Matters for America said in a statement.