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Musk’s Texts Reveal Inside Look At Twitter Deal’s Collapse

elon-musk-tweets - Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
elon-musk-tweets - Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A massive trove of Elon Musk’s texts made available to the public give a glimpse into Musk’s mindset during his bid to acquire Twitter, and the subsequent unraveling of the deal that has resulted in Twitter taking the Tesla billionaire to court in order to force his proposed $44 billion purchase.

The texts, which were released as part of evidentiary discovery in Twitter’s lawsuit against him, provide valuable insight into the thought process behind Musk’s attempted acquisition, and show how the billionaire was in regular contact with powerful industry players, media, and political figures looking to have a hand or gain a foothold in Musk’s vision for the company, including exchanges with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, and Axel Springer owner Mathias Döpfner.

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In one exchange between Dorsey and Musk, the former Twitter CEO revealed he had attempted to persuade the board of Twitter to bring in Musk a year before, and told Musk that he now believed Twitter “should have never been a company. That was the original sin.”

“Couldn’t be happier you’re doing this,” Dorsey texted Musk, after news broke in March that Musk had acquired a nine-percent stake in the social media company.

Less positive was Musk’s relationship with Twitter’s current CEO Parag Agrawal. In one tense April exchange, Agrawal cautioned Musk that his public tweets regarding the platform were not strengthening his position or improving the business. Musk responded by telling Agrawal that the whole thing was a “waste of time,” and that he would be making an offer to take Twitter private.

The texts also reveal that weeks later, Dorsey attempted to coordinate a discussion between Musk and Agrawal in order to address Musk’s concerns and come to a resolution over the future of the company. “At least it became clear that you can’t work together. That was clarifying,” Dorsey texted Musk after the “hangout.”

Musk made moves to secure billions in funding and support from his backers directly from his phone. According to the texts, Musk discussed financing with Oracle Co-Founder Larry Ellison, who committed $2 billion to the acquisition scheme via text (whomst amongst us?). Separate reports indicate that Ellison and Musk were texting late into the night before Musk announced that he would be seeking to back out of his bid to purchase Twitter.

Musk first began serious discussions to buy Twitter in March, when the mogul met with founder Jack Dorsey to discuss the future direction of social media. According to SEC filings, he purchased a 9.2 percent stake in the company in April and brokered a deal to acquire the whole company for $44 billion later that month. The move was the culmination of Musk’s five-year flirtation with acquiring the platform, of which Musk had been an early, prolific user, later becoming an ardent critic of the platform’s move toward more rigorous content moderation.

Musk’s framing of his attempted acquisition of the social media company as a crusade for online free speech galvanized prominent actors in online right-wing spaces. In a notable text interaction, an individual whose name has been redacted discusses allowing banned users to return to the platform, specifically Republican users, including “the boss himself,” a probable reference to former President Donald Trump.

By May, Musk had soured on the proposed deal. In an exchange with his banker, Michael Grimes, Musk requested that they “slow down just a few days.” “Putin’s speech tomorrow is extremely important,” wrote Musk. “It won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re headed into WW3.”

He began to raise questions about how many of Twitter’s users — an essential element of its $44 billion valuation — were fake or spam accounts, announcing on May 13th that the deal was on hold pending a formal review. Agrawal declared that Twitter’s internal data indicated that less than five percent of accounts were bots. When the Twitter CEO explained that Musk’s proposed external analysis of the number of bots on the platform would require the disclosure of private user data Twitter was not willing to share, Musk replied with a poop emoji. The mogul then began publicly criticizing Agrawal’s assessment, stating the number of fake accounts was much higher — and that a deal could only be completed at a lower price. By June, Musk began trying to bow out of the purchase, and Twitter sued him in July to enforce the deal.

The collapse of the Twitter deal and its subsequent fall into litigation have resulted in both financial blows for Musk and a publicly embarrassing process of discovery. The promised bombshell revelations regarding Twitter’s handling of bots has yet to materialize, instead Musk’s business practices, both in relation to Twitter and his existing companies. Since he initially announced his intent to purchase the company Musk has faced sexual misconduct allegations, and as Rolling Stone previously reported accusations of overseeing a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at his flagship company Tesla. Alongside a slew of lawsuits brought by former employees, Musk is additionally operating under scrutiny from Securities and Exchange Commission, which he has run afoul of in the past, and who’s regulations he has once again been accused of trampling over while orchestrating his attempted Twitter takeover.

Kara Voght contributed to this report.

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