Tesla founder Elon Musk has (finally) succeeded in buying Twitter – and has already embarked on a campaign of restructuring among senior leadership.
Several executives – including CEO Parag Agwaral, CFO Ned Segal, chairperson Bret Taylor and head legal counsel Vijaya Gadde – have lost their jobs since the news went public, although at the time of writing Twitter had not confirmed the takeover.
Just before 5am BST today, Musk posted a characteristically short tweet simply reading, ‘The bird is freed’.
the bird is freed
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
The closing of the deal ends a drawn-out saga that has seen Musk publicly feud with Agrawal on Twitter (he responded to a detailed thread about spam with a single pile of poo emoji), attempt to pull out of the acquisition just three months after his initial offer, and be effectively forced back into it by Twitter’s legal threats.
Musk, the internet’s biggest loudmouth, said earlier this week he was buying Twitter “to help humanity.” However, his takeover is sure to be greeted with mixed feelings.
Some, particularly on the US right, will welcome the news. Conservatives have long argued (with no evidence) that social media brands repress their free speech and censor rightwing voices.
Others already fear the return of controversial figures like Kanye West and even Donald Trump, whose misspelled ramblings derailed debates, upset stock markets and dominated the news agenda.
Although he appeared in favour of total freedom of speech on Twitter earlier this year, Musk is now striking a more moderate tone. At the same time as he talked about helping humanity, he said Twitter must remain “welcoming”, must abide by national laws and should not become “a free-for-all hellscape”.
Job losses may continue
The executive job cuts – worth than $127.5 million in severance packages, according to SEC filings – could be just the first round of firings. There have been reports suggesting that as many as 75% of employees could lose their jobs, a claim that Ross Gerber – president and chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, and a shareholder in both Twitter and Tesla – told the BBC was “inaccurate.”
However, Gerber’s followup is unlikely to reassure staff; he said the original figure mentioned was 50%.
“There are a lot of talented people at Twitter, especially on the engineering side and they want to retain as much of that talent as possible.
“Really what they’re looking at from the trimming side is management [and] they’ve already started with upper management.” Gerber added that cuts are then likely to extend to product managers “and products they’ve been working on that aren’t going anywhere.”
It remains unclear why Musk wanted to buy Twitter, which like other social media platforms has been suffering from falling advertising spend and lower revenues. He has said he wants it to become a “digital town square,” but what that means is anybody’s guess.
One hint Musk has talked about is Twitter as the start of a so-called ‘everything app’, perhaps similar to Tencent’s WeChat in China: a blend of social media, e-commerce, messaging, banking and more.
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022