Musk, who controls Twitter, ousts top executives – KXAN Austin
Elon Musk has taken control of Twitter and ousted the company’s CEO, chief financial officer and general counsel, two people familiar with the deal said Thursday night.
The people would not say whether all the paperwork for the deal, originally valued at $44 billion, had been signed or if the deal had closed. But they said Musk was in charge of the social media platform and fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and chief legal counsel Vijaya Gade. Neither wanted to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the deal.
A few hours later, Musk tweeted “the bird has been released,” a reference to the Twitter logo.
The departure came just hours before a deadline set by a Delaware judge to finalize the deal on Friday. She threatened to schedule a lawsuit if no settlement was reached.
Although they came quickly, the major personnel changes were widely expected and are almost certainly the first of many big changes Tesla’s mercurial CEO will make.
Musk got into a private conflict with Agrawal in April, just before he decided to make a bid for the company, according to text messages later revealed in court documents.
Around the same time, he took to Twitter to criticize Gadde, the company’s top lawyer. His tweets were followed by a barrage of harassment against Gade from other Twitter accounts. For Gadde, an 11-year Twitter employee who also leads public policy and safety, the harassment included racist and misogynistic attacks, in addition to calls for Musk to fire her. On Thursday, after she was fired, the harassing tweets resurfaced.
Musk’s changes will be aimed at increasing Twitter’s subscriber base and revenue.
In his first major move earlier Thursday, Musk sought to reassure suspicious Twitter advertisers, saying he was buying the platform to help humanity and didn’t want it to become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
The announcement appears aimed at addressing concerns among advertisers – Twitter’s main source of revenue – that Musk’s plans to promote free speech by reducing content moderation will open the floodgates to more online toxicity and alienate users.
“The reason I acquired Twitter is that it is important for the future of civilization to have a common digital town square where a wide range of beliefs can be discussed in a healthy way without resorting to violence,” Musk wrote in an unusually long text message for the Tesla CEO, who usually projects his thoughts in one-line tweets.
He continued: “Right now there is a great danger that social media will split into far-right and far-left echo chambers that generate more hatred and divide our society.”
Musk has previously expressed distaste for advertising and Twitter’s reliance on it, suggesting a greater emphasis on other business models such as paid subscriptions that would not allow large corporations to dictate policy on how social media works. But on Thursday, he assured advertisers that he wants Twitter to be “the most respected advertising platform in the world.”
The memo is a shift from Musk’s position that Twitter unfairly infringes on free speech rights by blocking misinformation or graphic content, said Pinar Yildirim, associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
But it’s also recognized that a lack of content moderation is bad for business, putting Twitter at risk of losing advertisers and subscribers, she said.
“You don’t want a place where users are just bombarded with things they don’t want to hear about and the platform doesn’t take responsibility,” Yıldırım said.
Musk said Twitter should be “warm and welcoming to everyone” and allow users to choose the experience they want to have.
The Friday deadline to close the deal was ordered by a Delaware court in early October. It’s the latest step in a battle that began in April when Musk signed a deal to acquire Twitter, then tried to back out of it, prompting Twitter to sue Tesla’s CEO to force him to go through with the acquisition . If the two sides don’t meet Friday’s deadline, the next step could be a trial in November that could result in a judge forcing Musk to complete the deal.
But Musk has signaled that the deal is happening. He walked into the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Wednesday wearing a porcelain sink, changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit” and tweeted, “Walking into Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”
Overnight, the New York Stock Exchange told investors it would halt trading in Twitter shares before the open on Friday in anticipation of the company going private under Musk’s leadership.
Musk is expected to speak directly with Twitter employees on Friday if the deal is finalized, according to an internal memo cited by several media outlets. Despite internal confusion and low morale over fears of layoffs or a dismantling of the company’s culture and operations, Twitter leaders this week at least outwardly welcomed Musk’s arrival and announcements.
Top sales executive Sarah Personett, the company’s chief customer officer, said she had a “great discussion” with Musk on Wednesday and appeared to support his Thursday message to advertisers.
“Our ongoing commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged,” Personette tweeted Thursday. “Looking forward to the future!”
Musk’s apparent enthusiasm for visiting Twitter’s headquarters this week was in stark contrast to one of his previous suggestions: that the building should be turned into a homeless shelter because so few employees actually work there.
The Washington Post reported last week that Musk has told potential investors that he plans to lay off three-quarters of Twitter’s 7,500 employees when he takes ownership of the company. The newspaper cited documents and unnamed sources familiar with the discussion.
Musk has spent months deriding Twitter’s “spambots” and making sometimes contradictory statements about Twitter’s problems and how to fix them. But he did share a few specific details about his plans for the social media platform.
Thursday’s memo to advertisers shows a newfound emphasis on ad revenue, particularly the need for Twitter to provide more “relevant ads” — which typically means targeted ads that rely on collecting and analyzing users’ personal information.
Yıldırım said that unlike Facebook, Twitter is not good at targeting ads to what users want to see. Musk’s announcement suggests he wants to fix that, she said.
Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg said Musk has good reason to avoid a major shakeup of Twitter’s ad business, as Twitter’s revenue has been hurt by a weakening economy, months of uncertainty surrounding Musk’s proposed takeover, changing consumer behavior and the fact , that “there is no other source of income biding its time.”
“Even a slight loosening of content moderation on the platform is sure to scare away advertisers, many of whom already feel that Twitter’s brand safety tools are lacking compared to other social platforms,” Enberg said.