Just in the last 10 days, Elon Musk made headlines by becoming the biggest Twitter shareholder, at 9.2%, being offered a seat on the board, accepting that seat with excitement, changing his mind a few days later, and finally — in breaking news — making an offer today, April 14, to buy Twitter for $43 billion.
What a rollercoaster! But by now, I believe we’re used to emotional and financial rollercoaster rides from the CEO of Tesla, right?
Musk’s history with Twitter is long, turbulent, and controversial, and I’d like us to take a look at that first so we can better understand what this new big move means for Twitter and Elon Musk.
Elon Musk’s Twitter History
Elon has 81.5 million Twitter followers, is the eighth-most followed Twitter account, and the most followed CEO on the platform. Ahead of him are only celebrities — mostly singers — and President Barack Obama at number one; but as Elon pointed out in a recent post where he was dramatically wondering if Twitter was dying, “Most of these ‘top’ accounts tweet rarely and post very little content,” and he proceeded to call out Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
On the other hand, Elon loves to tweet often, and according to this report on his tweeting habits, he has been tweeting more each year since 2015. In 2018, for example, CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff was the only big-company tech CEO tweeting more than Elon. A large number of Elon’s tweets are replies, which is quite unusual, and he doesn’t shy away from replying to small users. These days, it’s not uncommon for Elon to share more than 30 tweets in a day. If you want to find out more about his preferred topics and tweet history, check out this detailed graphic made by Visual Capitalist after analyzing a decade of Elon Musk’s tweets:
Elon Musk has a reputation for being extremely open and candid on Twitter and social media in general, but his casual tone, weird sense of humor, eccentric and instigative nature have sparked a lot of controversy on Twitter and gotten him into trouble, and even lawsuits.
He isn’t afraid to directly insult people, like calling a writer an idiot, or even worse, suggesting someone is a pedophile or weirdly joking about it. This happened in 2018 when 12 boys and their soccer coach got trapped in a cave in Thailand, and Elon got involved in efforts to rescue them. He called the British cave diver involved in their rescue a pedophile, with no foundation at all, in a tweet that is now deleted.
He loves to crack jokes on Twitter, and while they are usually harmless or just misunderstood, some can backfire pretty badly, like in the case of his April Fool’s joke about Tesla going bankrupt, which caused production shortfalls and regulatory scrutiny over its driver-assistance system Autopilot, as well as the company’s stock plummeting 7% that day, and up to 8.1% overall.
Or the time he joked about taking Tesla private, at $420 a share, in August 2018, which was one of his most scandalous tweets to date.
The tweet was — unsurprisingly for Musk — yet another misunderstood, if not dumb, joke about the celebration of marijuana on April 20, or 4/20. But if our dumb jokes can go unnoticed or at most get a few eye-rolls, Elon’s one ended up costing him a fortune. The tweet sparked a frenzy of speculations and caused Tesla’s share price to jump by 11% before quickly dropping again in the following days as people started doubting Musk’s ability to pull off the deal. Investors claimed they were terribly misled by this tweet, and Musk was sued with fraudulent charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and had to pay a $40 million fine (a $20 million penalty for him, and $20 million for Tesla) and step down from being Tesla’s chairman for three years. However, Musk showed no remorse, said it was worth it, and continued taking jabs at the SEC.
Elon Musk’s Influence on Cryptocurrency Trends
Being the world’s richest man and one of the most respected businessmen, with such a huge Twitter following, it’s no doubt that Elon Musk has an enormous power to move and influence markets in a probably unprecedented way.
And he probably doesn’t dislike playing with that power to dictate the market.
As such, Musk frequently posts about cryptocurrencies, which always sparks brief periods of interest for that crypto.
For instance, Elon added #bitcoin to his Twitter profile page in January 2021 and announced that Tesla acquired $1.5 billion in Bitcoin and would be accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. This increased the Bitcoin price by 17% and it continued to increase, until May 2021, when Musk announced that Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin as a payment method, which made it drop from $64,000 in April to $30,000 in May. The price fell again in June 2021, when Elon posted a tweet suggesting he had fallen out of love with Bitcoin.
The Tesla CEO also has an affinity for Dogecoin, which started out as a joke cryptocurrency — and still is to many — but that he and other celebrities like Snoop Dogg and former Kiss frontman Gene Simmons have managed to turn real by investing in it. Musk’s Dogecoin tweets have made the cryptocurrency fluctuate so much, that people even created memes about it.
In fact, Elon posted a few memes himself (the second one is a picture of Elon holding up Simmons, who is holding up Snoop Dogg, who in turn is holding up a Shiba Inu):
Likewise, Musk influenced the market when it came to the GameStop fiasco last year. Musk simply tweeted “Gamestonk” and a link to the famous r/wallstreetbets Reddit thread, which made GME’s price go through the roof, by more than 150%.
What Does Elon Musk’s Investment in Twitter Mean?
As seen, Musk has had a huge influence on Twitter, but that’s not where his history with Twitter ends. Aside from ruffling feathers with his tweets, influencing cryptocurrency markets, and massively increasing the value of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk has also shared his opinions and criticisms about Twitter many times.
Just a week before announcing he was now the largest Twitter shareholder, Musk criticized the platform by suggesting it does not adhere to his vision of what free speech should mean.
He also made a lot of suggestions for Twitter Blue, which gives users access to exclusive features for a monthly subscription. He suggested a lower price for the service, a possibility to pay in Doge, that subscribers should get an authentication checkmark, and even went so far as to suggest no ads on the platform, because “The power of corporations to dictate policy is greatly enhanced if Twitter depends on advertising money to survive.”
So Why Didn’t Elon Musk Accept His Position as a Twitter Board Member?
On April 4, Twitter announced that the Tesla CEO was now its largest shareholder, which was immediately followed by a 27% increase in Twitter shares, but also by an offer for Elon Musk to become a board member. Both Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said they were excited to work together and Elon tweeted about looking forward to bringing “significant improvements” to Twitter.
Elon even began polling his followers about adding an “edit” button to the platform and warned his followers to vote responsibly, as the result would have significant consequences.
He even tweeted a photo of himself smoking marijuana on a Joe Rogan podcast in 2018, with the caption, “Twitter’s next board meeting is gonna be lit.”
However, on Saturday, when he was supposed to join the board, Musk announced that he would not be joining it after all.
This is what the Twitter CEO shared with his team:
Agrawal didn’t mention why Musk wasn’t going to take a board seat after all, and Musk didn’t motivate his decision either. However, people’s main assumption was that by becoming a board member, Musk would be giving up much of his freedom of speech, as he would have to act in the interest of the shareholders, and his statements about Twitter would now have to be verified and priorly approved. In addition, taking a seat on the board would mean that Musk would no longer have the right to own more than 14.9% of Twitter’s stock.
And if we know something about Elon Musk, is that he values his freedom and options.
It was pretty clear to me that Musk was interested in being an active shareholder, and not just an investor or passive board member. He wants to bring about real change in the platform, and he can do so more freely as an active shareholder. Board members are notoriously known for being much more restricted in what they can do, as they have to first and foremost act in the best interest of the shareholders and increase the company value and shares. As an “outsider”, Musk can have much more influence on the company’s direction, and he would have a say in that whether he is a board member or not, since he owns almost 10% of the company, with the possibility of buying even more, or all of it.
As Agrawal said in the note to his staff, “We have and will always value input from our shareholders whether they are on our board or not. Elon is our biggest shareholder and we will remain open to his input.” He also said that he believed this was the best, but warned that there would be distractions ahead, referring of course to the high likelihood that Musk will continue to stir the waters and be kind of a thorn in Twitter’s side.
And as we can judge by Elon’s announcement today, he’s not planning to let them chill for even a second.
Nobody knows exactly what Elon Musk’s plans are with Twitter, and it remains to be seen in what direction he’ll decide to take it, but it is pretty obvious that he didn’t invest just for some extra money, and he is more interested in aligning the company with his own values and ideas of the world — I started writing this article before Elon announcing he wanted to buy Twitter and was about to post it when I saw the news. Still, I stand by everything I’ve written, and in fact, now I’m even more convinced that Elon Musk has big plans for this company and wants to completely change it to suit his ideas. Here is what he said in his open letter to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor:
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company. As a result, I am offering to buy 100% of Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash, a 54% premium over the day before I began investing in Twitter and a 38% premium over the day before my investment was publicly announced. My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.”
Twitter has just released a statement saying they will carefully consider Mr. Musk’s offer:
“[Twitter] today confirmed it has received an unsolicited, non-binding proposal from Elon Musk to acquire all of the Company’s outstanding common stock for $54.20 per share in cash.
The Twitter Board of Directors will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.”
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