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About That Time Al Gore Tried to Buy Twitter

The Exchange

He may not have invented the Internet, but former Vice President Al Gore reportedly made a move four years ago to take over one of the Web's largest success stories: Twitter.

It all happened back in 2009, when the microblogging site was really starting to take off and was attracting interest from notables ranging from the Dalai Lama, to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Justin Bieber.

According to an excerpt from Nick Bilton's forthcoming history of the company, "Hatching Twitter," published in this week's edition of the New York Times magazine, the company's dance card was all but overflowing at the time. Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly approached co-founder Ev Williams over dinner to talk about a possible buyout, and even Facebook (FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg made a move to acquire the upstart company.

But it was Al Gore who pulled out all the stops.

"By that point," Bilton wrote, "Williams was regularly turning down overtures to buy the company. Al Gore pitched Williams and [co-founder Biz] Stone one night over copious amounts of wine and Patron tequila at his St. Regis suite in San Francisco."

Gore's motives that night could have involved any number of Bay Area insiders -- he is no stranger to the world of technology, having served as a senior advisor to Google (GOOG) at one point and he remains on the boards of both Apple (AAPL) and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers -- but the truth is he was there on behalf of Current TV, the cable television channel that he co-owned at the time and has since been sold to the Qater-based Al Jazeera Media Network.

“It was an idea for Current to merge with Twitter,” Joel Hyatt, one of Gore's partners in Current TV, told Forbes on Wednesday. “Al helped me to pitch the idea to Ev and Biz. I just thought it was a great idea.”

Why would Current TV have been interested in Twitter? Because the television network was then focused on promoting user-generated content created by its viewers; connecting "the Internet generation with television," Gore said at the time. Twitter would have fit right in with this initiative and Current TV knew it.

But Twitter's founders didn't love the idea and declined Gore's overtures, cutting short a deal that could have rewritten the course of Internet history and dramatically changed Twitter's (not to mention Gore's) fortunes.

But don't cry for Stone and Williams. Although they may have missed out on a fat payday in 2009, they and many other early Twitter insiders stand to potentially bank millions when the company's stock begins trading later this year.