Elon Musk Takes Helm of Twitter and Fires Executives
Elon Musk fired several Twitter Inc. executives after completing his takeover of the company, according to people familiar with the matter, capping an unusual corporate battle and setting up one of the world’s most influential social-media platforms for potentially broad change.
Mr. Musk fired Chief Executive Parag Agrawal and Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal after the deal closed, the people said. Mr. Musk also fired Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top legal and policy executive, and Sean Edgett, general counsel. Spokespeople for Twitter didn’t comment.
Hours after those actions, Mr. Musk tweeted: “the bird is freed” in a seeming reference to Twitter, which has a blue bird as its logo.
Mr. Musk first agreed to buy Twitter in April for $44 billion, then threatened to walk away from the deal, before reversing course this month and committing to see through the acquisition. He previously indicated unhappiness with some of the top ranks at Twitter, at one point responding to a tweet from Mr. Agrawal with a poop emoji. He also used the site to mock Ms. Gadde, the top legal boss, tweeting an image overlaid with text that repeated allegations Twitter had a left-wing political bias.
It wasn’t immediately clear who would step into the top positions left vacant by Thursday’s exits. CNBC earlier reported the departures of Mr. Agrawal and Mr. Segal.
The deal, in which Twitter will again become a private company, adds to Mr. Musk’s expansive business reach, which includes running Tesla Inc., the world’s most valuable car company, and rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, among other endeavors. Mr. Musk, who had become Twitter’s largest individual shareholder, previously said he would pay for the acquisition mostly with cash, some contributed by co-investors and $13 billion in debt.
There were signs this week indicating that Mr. Musk was moving closer to acquiring the social media platform by Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline. Banks started sending money backing the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported. Mr. Musk also has changed his Twitter bio to “Chief Twit,” showed himself walking into the San Francisco headquarters of the social media platform, and issued a statement on Twitter explaining his vision for the site to advertisers.
Closing the deal ends a monthslong saga of whether Mr. Musk would or wouldn’t purchase the company. The acquisition also puts one of the world’s most prominent social media platforms under the control of the world’s richest person, with implications for the future of online discourse.
A self-described free-speech absolutist, Mr. Musk has pledged to limit content moderation in favor of emphasizing free speech. However, that approach risks causing conflicts with some advertisers, politicians, and users who would prefer a more-moderated platform.
In a message to advertisers on Twitter on Thursday, Mr. Musk said he was buying the company to “have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.” He said Twitter “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”
Mr. Musk said the platform must be “warm and welcoming to all” and suggested Twitter could let people “choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play videogames ranging from all ages to mature.”
Mr. Musk’s decision to go through with the Twitter takeover came two weeks before a trial in Delaware was set to begin over the stalled deal. The judge presiding over the legal clash agreed to pause the litigation, granting a request by Mr. Musk for more time to complete the takeover. The judge gave Mr. Musk until Oct. 28 to follow through with his offer, or said she would schedule a November trial.
Mr. Musk offered in April to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share—higher than the company was valued at the time. In the months since the deal was struck, Twitter has faced efforts by Mr. Musk to abandon the deal, a whistleblower complaint in which Twitter’s former head of security accused the company of security and privacy problems, and unsuccessful talks to negotiate a lower price with Mr. Musk.
The New York Stock Exchange has suspended Twitter shares from trading, starting Friday. The stock closed Thursday at $53.70.
Mr. Musk’s takeover leaves big questions over the future of the platform, including how he might revamp its business model and how he might implement changes he has proposed for the way it polices content.