Twitter accepts Elon Musk's offer but critics aren't having it
San Francisco, California - Elon Musk is all set to turn potential birds in the bush into a Twitter in the hand, and everyone's got something to say about it.
Twitter announced on Monday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by the Tesla founder in a transaction valued at around $44 billion.
Once the transaction is completed, Twitter will become a privately held company, the tech giant said in a statement.
"The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon's proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing," Twitter's independent board chair Bret Taylor said.
Musk chimed in: "Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated." He added that he wants to make it "better than ever by enhancing the product with new features," including defeating spam bots and authenticating all humans.
Musk made the non-binding proposal to acquire all outstanding common Twitter stock not already owned by him earlier this month. Initially, Twitter adopted a so-called poison pill to fend off a potential hostile takeover.
Musk has more than 84 million followers on the social network and is one of its most active and prominent users. The billionaire had previously announced his intention to make the microblogging site a global platform for free speech, drawing criticism from experts for his past dealings.
"I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means," he tweeted on Monday, just a few hours before the announcement.
Winds of change
Two groups have complained particularly loudly about alleged censorship on Twitter: users whose posts have been taken down because of incorrect or misleading information about the coronavirus, and many supporters of former president Donald Trump – who claimed on the platform that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Both camps have lauded Musk's new vision for the online space.
Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey was also upbeat on the move: "Elon's goal of creating a platform that is 'maximally trusted and broadly inclusive' is the right one," he tweeted. "This is the right path ... I believe it with all my heart."
Others sounded the alarm. Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: "This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain."
The civil rights organization American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also expressed concern.
"While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there's a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual," the organization's executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
"Mr. Musk: free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter," Johnson tweeted.
"Protecting our democracy is of utmost importance, especially as the midterm elections approach. Mr. Musk: lives are at risk, and so is American democracy," Johnson added.
Sealing the deal
Under the agreement, stockholders are to receive $54.20 for each share of Twitter common stock.
The purchase price represents a 38% premium to the company's closing stock price on April 1, the last trading day before Musk disclosed he had become Twitter's largest shareholder, holding a 9.2% stake in the company.
Last week, in an SEC filing, Musk revealed that he had secured commitments for $46.5 billion to help finance the deal.
The Tesla owner got about $25.5 billion in debt financing through Morgan Stanley Senior Funding and other firms, and said that he had committed about $21 billion in equity financing himself.
Twitter plans to release its first quarter results on April 28.
Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS