Last week, Elon Musk pulled out of his efforts to buy Twitter citing the lack of transparency surrounding bot or spam accounts and that the company broke the terms of the takeover agreement by failing to consult with Musk when firing senior employees. There have been attempts to suggest that his efforts to buy Twitter were never truly serious and were instead just another example of his attention-grabbing online and public behaviour.
Advocates point to reasons like his consistent disrespectful behaviour towards Twitter personnel during the negotiations, despite signing a merger agreement to not ‘disparage’ Twitter or its staff. Another suggested reason is that the agreed share price had the number 420 in it – a long standing reference to marijuana.
I do not hold to this theory. I am no great fan of Elon Musk but it is clearly possible to take yourself not completely seriously and yet to still be able to follow through and deliver. We must remember that Musk has very publicly extolled the real good flowing from the free exchange of information and opinions delivered by social media platforms such as Twitter. There was great excitement among his fans and those who have concerns about some of the actions and the direction Twitter has gone in recent times. They believed that Musk could deliver this type of platform – free of any suggestion of political bias.
The response from the Twitter board is very interesting though. To have such a public breakdown in the negotiations, something that was always possible given Musk’s grandstanding ways, over clear issues about how Twitter is run and yet to then try to force the takeover to be completed through the courts could perhaps be seen as an odd state of affairs. After all, why would you compel someone to buy a company they no longer wish to own?
This is not the point of such a move though. The court case will centre on an alleged breach of contract by Musk when he backed out of the deal. This will be a point of principle for Twitter now. It is not about actually forcing Musk to take over but rather setting the tone for any alleged breaches of contract against the company. Most assumptions are that the case is likely to end in a settlement between the two parties, as neither actually want Musk to take over at this stage.
However, has this been a masterstroke by Musk? The deal fell through, largely due the differing estimates of the percentage of Twitter bots. Twitter claim it is around 5 per cent but Musk’s estimates put it as high as 20 per cent. One of his more recent tweets suggests confidence that the court case could force Twitter to reveal exactly how their estimates work and whether they are actually fit for purpose. If that is the case, he will have succeeded in making Twitter more open and transparent – something that could have been his intent all along. With Elon Musk, you never really know.