With Elon Musk’s deal back on, what’s ahead for Twitter?
Oct 6, 2022

With Elon Musk’s deal back on, what’s ahead for Twitter?

If the Tesla CEO takes Twitter private, he might cut costs and force an exodus of executives, says Bloomberg's Kurt Wagner. Musk could also put his views about free speech into practice.

It’s been a drama fit for a social media platform that loves drama.

First Elon Musk was joining the board, then buying the company, then backing out, then getting sued. Now, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX appears to be back in, reviving his original offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion.

It’s not clear yet what will happen to the court case over this deal, but for now it seems that Musk will be taking control of the social media platform after all.

So, what might he do with it? And why the change of heart?

Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino spoke with Kurt Wagner, a tech reporter for Bloomberg News who’s been covering the whole saga. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kurt Wagner: There’s a couple of breadcrumbs I think that we can follow. One is that we’ve seen the judge kind of side with Twitter on a number of things around who can be deposed, what type of data needs to be handed over from one side to the other, even the timing of the trial. You know, Musk and his lawyers tried to push this multiple times to later in either this year or even early next year. And the judge kept saying no, like, we’re gonna do this as quick as possible. And so that’s a bit of speculation, but, you know, it seems to at least align with the timeline we have here.

Meghan McCarty Carino: One of the things that’s come out of this trial is this trove of text messages that’s become public. What have we learned from those text messages that might be relevant to what we can expect from this saga going forward?

Wagner: In terms of the deal itself, I mean, late March, early April, Elon kind of showed up on the scene at Twitter for the first time as the largest shareholder, and the company offered him a board seat, and they, you know, came to an agreement, he was going to join the board. And a few things happened, but the short version is that he had a change of heart. And he said, you know what, I want to buy this company instead. Well, we kind of have a sense of why that happened now, now that the texts are out, which is that he was messaging with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and they had a phone call. And it seemed as though Dorsey kind of told him the best way to fix this company is to take it private and to do all the things that need to be fixed out of the public eye. And, you know, a few days after that conversation, Elon has a change of heart. Now, I don’t think there’s like a smoking gun in these texts. But I think we have a much better sense of what happened to get us here than we did before those came out.

McCarty Carino: What is Musk’s vision for Twitter as a private company? And are there any signs that that might have evolved during this time?

Wagner: He’s shared a handful of different ideas about how he would run things. You know, he’s been pitching cost cuts, and that likely means layoffs, that likely means, you know, cutting back on certain projects. He doesn’t necessarily like all the policies that Twitter has. He thinks that, you know, they’re way too infringing on free speech. And then in terms of, like, the product itself, it’s a little bit of a guessing game right now. But he has talked about, you know, the idea of, like, a “superapp,” similar to what WeChat is in China, this app where you kind of do all the different things you want to do online from one service — you book an Uber, or you manage your bank account. That doesn’t really exist in the West, so it’s possible that, you know, he has visions of, of Twitter being much bigger than simply a place to post, you know, news or your thoughts for the day.

McCarty Carino: And how might he shake up sort of the corporate side of the company?

Wagner: I would be shocked if the current executive leadership group stays in charge. The biggest reason is he’s basically said publicly he doesn’t have faith in the current leadership. And that was another thing we actually learned from some of these text messages. We saw an exchange between Elon and Parag Agrawal, who’s the CEO of Twitter, that was pretty contentious. You know, like Parag kind of called Elon out for some of the stuff he was tweeting about Twitter and basically said, hey, you know, you’re welcome to tweet whatever you want, but I have to tell you, this isn’t making my job any easier. I’m kind of paraphrasing here. And Elon snapped back and was basically like, you know, hey, what have you done this week? I’m walking, I don’t want to do the board. I’m gonna buy this company instead. And we also know that Jack Dorsey had kind of set up a meeting between the two of them shortly after the deal was announced. It seemed like a way to try and make peace a little bit. And that meeting didn’t go well because we saw texts from Elon and Jack Dorsey basically saying, hey, at least we know you two can’t work together. You know, those are the types of things that lead me to believe that the current leadership of Twitter is probably not going to stick around once Elon takes over. So then that sort of, you know, raises the question, well, who is going to run Twitter? And also, you know, who’s going to be advising Twitter?

McCarty Carino: And what about the rank-and-file Twitter employees? How has this whole situation affected them?

Wagner: I mean, it’s been a total roller coaster, right? There’s just been like a lot of uncertainty at the company. There’s also a lot of employees at Twitter who just don’t align ideologically with Elon Musk. Twitter is one of those companies, I’d say more than any other company I’ve written about, where the mission of Twitter is a really important thing to the people who work there, you know. They feel like they’re doing good in the world, or at least that’s the hope. And a lot of them just disagree with, you know, Elon’s decisions about speech or policy or bringing Donald Trump back on the platform. And so I would not be surprised at all if, you know, Musk ends up taking control here, if we see a lot of employees trickle out over the next couple of months, because I just don’t think there’s a lot of people who could get excited working for him every day.

McCarty Carino: A lot of users have expressed disagreement with those positions as well. And we sort of saw during the first round of the deal discussions that, you know, people were saying they’re going to leave the platform. Do you have a sense of kind of how things have shaken out since that time, if things are settling down, if that’s kind of upswelling again?

Wagner: You know, people love to say that, [but] they don’t always follow through. We heard a lot about how booting Donald Trump was going to kill Twitter’s user growth, and it didn’t. Most people will probably stick around, at least for the beginning. Now if the rule changes that Elon ultimately totally change(s) how Twitter works, and three years from now, it’s a very, very different website than it is today, well, that might be different. But I think at the outset, I think most people are probably going to stick around.

You can read more of Kurt Wagner’s reporting on the Musk-Twitter situation here. There are more details on the reaction of Twitter employees to this recent twist.

One source inside Twitter told him the cafeteria was playing the song “Should I stay or should I go” by the Clash after the latest headlines hit.

It’s a good song. Could be a coincidence.

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Daniel Shin Producer
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