Article: Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter: A twisty tale

HR Technology

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter: A twisty tale

The charismatic Tesla owner Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter is a stormy tale full of twists and turns.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter: A twisty tale

Twitter, the world’s most important engine for politics, news, and entertainment, is losing steam—its followers are fading fast. Much like its maverick owner Elon Musk, the micro-blogging site is losing its fan base, like never before.

Just like the billionaire tech entrepreneur’s ambition to colonise Mars looks surreal, his 'overtures' with Twitter caused quite an unrest in the organisation. Some bigwigs were shown the door and others chose to quit.

After dillydallying for months, Musk sealed his $44 billion Twitter deal early a fortnight ago. Musk first offered to buy Twitter back in April 2022 and, since then, it’s been a bumpy ride filled with withdrawn offers, lawsuits, accusations, verification concerns, and so much more.

Musk’s critics say his skyrocketing ambition with SpaceX and Tesla may be suited for those ventures, but not for content business.

The same fear runs deep among Twitter employees, who are tight-lipped over the turn of events that shook Twitter since Musk took over on October 27. Almost 900,000 Twitter accounts were deactivated between October 27 and November 1, according to reports.

Twitter, an underdog among social media peers, just a fraction of the size of Meta Platforms Inc., TikTok, or YouTube, is facing the heat. Mastodon, a new entrant, is fast catching up and eating into its followers’ base.

It can be difficult to keep track of everything that’s happened so far. We have created this timeline of events to help keep you up-to-date on the happenings on Twitter and Elon Musk’s actions.

November 17, 2022: Elon Musk plans to find a new Twitter CEO

Elon Musk gave hint that he is open to the idea of handing over the mantle of Twitter to anyone.  His sudden revelation has surprised all. The Tesla owner said he does not want to be the CEO of any company, including Twitter. 

On Wednesday, Musk took the witness stand in a Delaware court to defend himself in a shareholder lawsuit, challenging a compensation package he was awarded by Tesla’s board of directors that is potentially worth more than $55 billion.

While testifying, the billionaire said, “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” according to multiple media reports.

Elon Musk has also taken a hard stand on Twitter employees future asking them to decide by Thursday evening if they want to remain a part of the business. He wrote an email that said, employees “will need to be extremely hardcore” to build “a breakthrough Twitter 2.0” and that long hours at high intensity will be needed for success.

November 16, 2022: Musk demands 'hardcore' work culture

Musk emailed all staff to outline his vision for "Twitter 2.0," which will require an "extremely hardcore" culture, with long hours and high intensity, according to reports. Employees must agree to this on Thursday or leave with three months of severance pay.

November 15, 2022: Workers fired for speaking about Musk on Slack

Employees who criticized Elon Musk in Twitter's Slack channels were fired overnight via email, Platformer's Casey Newton said in a tweet. They were apparently told their "recent behaviour has violated company policy." It's unclear how many people were affected.

November 14, 2022: Musk wants greater Twitter video support

Speaking via video link, Musk told business leaders during the G20 summit in Bali that he wants to see Twitter support longer-form video to bring in more content creators. He also noted that he's been working "at the absolute most amount ... from morning til night, seven days a week" since the acquisition

November 13, 2022: SpaceX reportedly buys major Twitter ad package

SpaceX, Musk's aerospace company, ordered a Twitter "takeover" advertising package for its satellite internet service Starlink, CNBC reported. This will seemingly promote the service on people's Twitter timelines in Spain and Australia and can cost more than $250,000. It comes after some advertisers paused campaigns due to the upheaval at Twitter.

November 12, 2022: Thousands  of contract employees seemingly terminated

Twitter cut thousands of contract employees, according to Platformer's Casey Newton, Axios, and CNBC, with Newton reporting that around 4,400 of Twitter's roughly 5,500 contractors were affected. Most didn't get any notice and found out because they lost access to the company's email and internal communications systems.

November 11, 2022: Twitter blue suspended after wave of account impersonators creates chaos

Twitter Blue’s launch was suspended while it deals with a wave of impersonators that have taken over the platform. It was confirmed that existing Twitter Blue subscribers would retain access to their features, but new subscriptions were put on halt. 

November 10, 2022: Twitter could be at risk of billions of dollars in fines from the federal trade commission

One of Twitter’s internal attorneys warned others in the company Slack that engineers could bear the “personal, professions, and legal risk” faced by the company. This is in part due to a 2011 deal with the Federal Trade Commission that gives “the body authority over its data security practices, with violations potentially resulting in hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in fines.” It was also said that Musk seems to care little about this particular development despite its potential to “destroy the company.”

November 10, 2022 - Elon Musk reportedly tells Twitter employees that bankruptcy isn’t out of the question

Musk sent an e-mail to employees stating the economic picture ahead is “dire” and Twitter itself is too dependent on advertisers, many of whom have stopped spending due to the changes made since Musk’s takeover.

Following the e-mail, Platformer’s Zoë Schiffer reported that Musk held an all-hands meeting for Twitter employees that not only included Musk talking about ending remote work, but also saying that he has plans to make Twitter a peer-to-peer payments platform and that “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question.”

November 9, 2022: Twitter adds an 'official' non-paid grey verification checkmark, then Musk kills it

Following confusion stemming from Twitter accounts impersonating brands and people, Twitter instituted an “official” non-paid grey verification checkmark alongside its $8/month blue checkmark that anyone was able to get with Twitter Blue. The plan was to give certain accounts this “official” checkmark, although not all verified accounts would receive one.

Shortly after, Musk seemingly “killed” the “official” checkmark and said, “Blue check will be the great leveller.” In the following days, the “official” checkmark popped up again for some accounts and then went away again.

Twitter said it was working on suspending accounts that impersonate others, but that hasn’t stopped verified accounts from pretending to be Nintendo, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and many more.

November 4, 2022: Twitter begins laying off up to 3,700 employees, and is now being sued for it

Twitter and its new owner Elon Musk began the layoff process at the company which would see up to 3,700 employees losing their jobs.

"In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” an internal memo read. Twitter also noted that employees would be getting a message sent to their Twitter e-mail if their job was impacted or they would be getting a message to their personal e-mail if they were laid off.

In response to the layoffs, Twitter was hit with a class-action lawsuit as it was said to be in violation of federal and California law for not giving employees enough notice. Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said employees would get severance pay for two months.

Alongside being sued for the layoffs, Twitter began seeing some of its big advertisers — including Volkswagen AG, Pfizer Inc., and General Mills Inc. — pause their spending on the platform. Musk responded to the pausings, saying Twitter has seen a “massive drop in revenue” due to pressure from “activist groups.”

November 1, 2022: Elon Musk defends Twitter verification fee, then says it will only be $8

Following the report that Twitter was gearing up to charge $20/month for verification, Musk took to Twitter to defend the decision and change the price to $8/month.

“Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month."

Musk also said subscribers to the new Twitter Blue will get priority in replies, mentions, and search, the ability to post long video and audio, and receive half as many ads. Alongside saying he would be “willing to work” with publishers on Twitter a bypass on the paywall, he also said the subscription system would give Twitter revenue to “reward content creators.”

October 30, 2022: Twitter reportedly planning to charge $20 per month for verification, even for those already verified

Twitter was reportedly planning on charging users on the platform $20/month to earn the coveted verification badge via a Twitter Blue subscription. Furthermore, those who were already verified would have had 90 days to subscribe or they would lose their verified status. Oh, and the team on the project was told they had until November 7 to launch the feature or they will be fired.

Prior to Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Twitter Blue cost $4.99/month and allowed users to edit their tweets, get early access to new features, and more, but it had nothing to do with verification. Under Musk’s new plan, any user could get the blue verification check mark if they signed up for Twitter Blue.

October 27, 2022: Elon Musk completes takeover of Twitter, fires CEO and other top executives

Elon Musk not only officially completed his $44 billion deal to take over Twitter at the end of October, but he immediately fired the social media company’s CEO, CFO, head of legal policy, trust, and safety, and its general counsel.

Musk and former Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal had their troubles, as Musk previously shared that he doesn’t “have confidence in management” in an early filing about the deal. There were also some public feuds on Twitter between the two, including one where Musk replied to a Tweet by Agrawal about "defending the company’s user metrics by tweeting back a poop emoji."

October 27, 2022 - Elon Musk walks into Twitter HQ carrying a sink

Musk signified his Twitter deal was complete as he tweeted an image of him walking into Twitter’s HQ with a sink alongside the caption, “let that sink in.” Musk also updated his Twitter bio to say “chief twit.”

October 4, 2022: Elon Musk agrees to buy Twitter for $44 billion, averting a trial

Musk once again agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion, averting a trial that was set for October 2022.

"We received the letter from the Musk parties which they have filed with the SEC. The intention of the Company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share," a Twitter spokesperson told IGN via email.

The trial was postponed and the court set a deadline of October 28 for Musk and Twitter to close the deal.

October 4, 2022: Elon Musk agrees to buy Twitter for $44 billion, averting a trial

Musk once again agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion, averting a trial that was set for October 2022.

"We received the letter from the Musk parties which they have filed with the SEC. The intention of the Company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share," a Twitter spokesperson told IGN via email.

The trial was postponed and the court set a deadline of October 28 for Musk and Twitter to close the deal.

July 19, 2022:  Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk was set to start in October

A Delaware court granted Twitter’s request to expedite its ongoing lawsuit against Elon Musk and he withdrew his offer to buy the company. While the dates were exact, Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick ordered the trial to start in October 2022 and said it would last five days.

Twitter originally wanted the trial to start in September and Musk wanted it to begin in February 2023.

July 8, 2022: Elon Musk terminates his deal to buy Twitter, and he's promptly sued over It

Elon Musk stated he was terminating his deal to purchase Twitter. The buyout was said to be in “serious jeopardy” as negotiations dragged on, and then it was set to be cancelled entirely.

In response, Twitter confirmed it was suing Musk.

“The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement. We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery,” Twitter chairman Bret Taylor wrote.

June 6, 2022: Elon Musk threatens to terminate deal to buy Twitter if spam bot demands aren't met

Musk threatened to walk away from the $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter, claiming the social media giant is in “material breach” of the merger agreement as there were issues with how many spam bots and fake accounts were reported to be on the platform. Musk claimed Twitter didn’t do enough to reveal the true numbers of these bots and fake accounts, which Twitter said hovers around 5% of total users.

"Based on Twitter’s behaviour to date, and the company's latest correspondence, in particular, Musk believes the company is actively resisting and thwarting his information rights (and the company’s corresponding obligations) under the merger agreement," Musk's lawyers wrote.

"This is a clear material breach of Twitter's obligations under the merger agreement and Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement."

May 17, 2022: Elon Musk’s Twitter buyout ‘Cannot move forward until the number of bot accounts is verified’

Musk said his Twitter buyout “cannot move forward” until the social media site verified the number of bots on the platform. He said “Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of 5%,” adding that “this deal cannot move forward until he does.”

Musk said his own research led him to believe that Twitter had 20% fake or spam accounts, but claimed it “could be much higher.”

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal took to Twitter to explain that the company's internal estimates for the last four quarters were all well under 5%. Musk responded with a poop emoji.

April 25, 2022: Twitter accepts Elon Musk's buyout

Twitter announced that it agreed to Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid for the social media company. Twitter confirmed that, after the deal closed, the company would become wholly owned by Musk.

"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,” Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said.

"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,” Musk said. "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."

April 26, 2022: Twitter co-founder says Elon Musk is ‘singular solution I trust’

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey said Elon Musk was “the singular solution I trust” following his $44 billion proposal to purchase the company. Dorsey said that Twitter’s return to being a private company as a result of the sale “is the correct first stop.”

"Twitter is the closest thing we have to a global consciousness," began Dorsey. "The idea and service are all that matters to me, and I will do whatever it takes to protect both. Twitter as a company has always been my sole issue and my biggest regret. It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step.

"In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter. It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company. Solving the problem of it being a company, however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness."

April 15, 2022: Twitter’s Board of Directors’ attempt to block Musk’s takeover

Twitter’s board of directors unanimously decided to adopt a “shareholder rights plan” to block Musk’s takeover attempt. This plan, also known as a “poison pill” is used by a company’s board of directors to stop a “hostile takeover.” It offers certain shareholders the right to purchase more company stock at a discounted price.

Since making my investment, I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve [its free speech] societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed into a private company.

April 14, 2022: Musk offers to buy Twitter for $44 billion

Musk offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion, which amounts to $54.20 per share in cash. That is 54% higher than the company’s share price the day before Musk began his recent investment into the company. Twitter was valued at the time at $37 billion.

This followed a letter sent to Twitter from Musk following his investment to become the majority shareholder, saying Twitter would need to be transformed into a private company or he would leave.

“Since making my investment, I now realise the company will neither thrive nor serve [its free speech] societal imperative in its current form,” Musk said. “Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”

“If the deal doesn’t work, given that I don’t have confidence in management nor do I believe I can drive the necessary change in the public market, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.”

April 11, 2022:  Musk says he won’t join Twitter’s Board of Directors

Musk decided not to join Twitter’s board of directors despite him becoming the company's largest shareholder. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal shared an internal memo on Twitter saying Musk chose not to join the board, and Agrawal said he believes “this is for the best.” That being said, he would be open to Musk’s input going forward.

April 5, 2022: Twitter confirms It’s working on an edit button

Shortly after Musk became a shareholder of the company, Twitter confirmed it was working on the long-awaited edit button for the platform. The feature has been in the works since at least 2021, and Twitter announced testing was set to commence in the “coming months.”

April 4, 2022: Musk announced he owns 9.2% of Twitter

Tesla CEO announced that he now owned 9.2% of Twitter, making him the largest shareholder of the social media company. He asked people if they wanted to see an edit button added to the platform.

Following the news, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said Musk would be appointed to Twitter’s board of directors, saying he felt he would bring “great value to (its) board.” Musk responded by saying he was excited to work with Agrawal and the board to make “significant improvements to Twitter in coming months.”

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Topics: HR Technology, Employee Engagement, #Layoffs, #MergersAndAcquisitions

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