Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter unfolded via private text messages between the Tesla CEO and a small circle of wealthy and powerful people in Silicon Valley, along with their underlings, advisers and a handful of journalists, politicians and aspiring negotiators.
The messages were part of court filings and were revealed Thursday as part of the pretrial discovery process in the legal battle over whether Musk should follow through on the merger agreement he signed to buy Twitter. Twitter and Musk are due in court on October 17.
The message stream includes Musk’s exchanges with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, current CEO Parag Agrawal, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and many others.
Court documents show Musk making overtures on Twitter, discussing the importance of free speech, brainstorming ideas on how to improve the platform, assembling the funding for the deal, then mulling over the way to make the company in difficulty profitable.
Ann Lipton, a business law professor at Tulane University, says some corporate cases generate “juicy and embarrassing internal emails.” But the case of Twitter is even more entertaining because Musk is such a colorful figure and Twitter is a high profile company with outsized influence.
Jack Dorsey, who founded Twitter and resigned in November 2021, discussed taking Twitter private with Musk in late March.
Musk quickly amassed enough shares to add up to 9% of Twitter’s equity.
Congratulations poured in from all over, with many eager to support his ventures and collaborate with the richest person in the world.
He told investor Antonio Gracias, “Free speech matters most when it’s someone you hate spouting what you think is bull****.”
Gracias replied, “You’re absolutely right. I agree with you 100 percent.”
Delaware Court of Chancery
Musk initially declined a seat on the board, then agreed a day later and immediately offered Agrawal that the platform “cancel permanent user bans.”
The two bonded as former engineers and current CEOs, their time spent coding in the trenches, and their appreciation of technical aptitude.
“Treat me like an engineer instead of a CEO,” Agrawal told Musk.
“Honestly, I hate doing management (management) stuff. I don’t think anyone should be anyone’s boss. But I love helping with technical/product design issues,” the co-founder wrote. of six companies.
Just two days later, after Musk publicly asked if Twitter was dying and a phone conversation referenced in the posts, Agrawal berated Musk.
“It is my responsibility to tell you that this does not help me improve Twitter in the current environment,” he wrote. Musk replied that he would not join the board and planned to make Twitter private.
Dorsey vouched for Agrawal and attempted to mend the relationship with a video meeting in late April. But Musk and Agrawal couldn’t work things out.
Dorsey dryly commented on Musk, “At least it became clear that you can’t work together. That was clarifying.”
The posts show Silicon Valley movers collapsing to take part in the deal on Twitter. Investor Joe Lonsdale has endorsed Musk’s proposal to make Twitter’s algorithm open source and has promised to speak about it at a Republican political retreat.
Joe Rogan wrote to him, “Are you going to free Twitter from the happy censorship mob?”
Musk replied that he would “provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow.”
Musk has received kudos, requests and arguments from journalists, politicians, investors and confidants.
With so many friends, the only thing Musk needed was enough money to fund his bid to buy Twitter.
He contacted Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who offered $1 billion. Musk asked for double.
The text message cache is telling, but legal experts watching the case closely say there’s more entertainment value than new legal evidence.
“I don’t see anything that we don’t already know that’s legally relevant. There’s some pretty damning stuff in there, but some stuff that had been made public before,” said Ann Lipton, a business law expert at the Tulane University, noting that Twitter’s July complaint cited Musk’s text to Twitter President Bret Taylor.
“Purge fake users will make the numbers terrible,” Musk wrote.
The text messages support the idea that his interest in the platform was based on his role in public debate and free speech issues, and not because he thought he could make the business profitable, Lipton said.
Musk’s legal team had a tough week in court.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Twitter lawyers said Musk and his financial adviser Jared Burchill destroyed evidence — automatically disappearing from Signal posts — about his reasons for wanting to pull out of the deal, and asked the judge to formally sanction Musk.
Twitter also showed that Musk’s own data scientists mostly confirmed the company’s estimates of the number of human users versus spam accounts on the platform, which is key to his argument.
The texts offer a rare insight into how transactions take place in a small circle of tech elites with unimaginable personal wealth and vast sums to invest.
Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk will go to trial in Delaware Chancery Court on October 17. If the judge rules against him, he will be forced to buy Twitter for $44 billion.
Long before the deal went south and ended up in court, Musk announced the possibility. , “He texted investor Jason Calacanis that if that happened, ‘I’ll be universally loved because it’s so easy to please everyone on Twitter.’