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Elon Musk says his takeover of Twitter is pending.




Already one of the most unusual corporate takeover attempts in modern business, Elon Musks’ $44 billion deal to buy Twitter got a little weirder on Friday.

First at dawn Tweeter, Mr. Musk said the deal was pending. He said he wanted more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.

Then, about two hours later, Mr. Musk tweeted again. He was always committed to acquiring, he saidwithout giving more details.

The seemingly conflicting messages left many wondering if Mr. Musk had cold feet, was trying to drive down the acquisition price, or was looking for some attention. Maybe it was a combination of all three. Twitter stores the yo-yo in response to its posts.

As with many things involving Mr Musk, who also heads electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, it was hard to know his thinking. He did not respond to a request for comment.

His remarks marked the latest chapter in an ongoing corporate saga that has raised questions about free speech online and the ramifications of taking charge of one of the most influential social media platforms by the richest person in the world. Mr Musk has pledged to relax Twitter’s content moderation policies. On Tuesday, he said he would lift the ban on former President Donald J. Trump.

While most acquisitions of this magnitude are handled in some choreographed way, Mr. Musk opted for a more improvised approach. He performed limited due diligence on the deal before moving forward and said in a conference interview in April that he doesn’t care about the details of Twitter’s finances.

On Friday, Mr. Musk demonstrated how his whims can sway a deal.

In his initial tweet, Musk referenced a May 2 regulatory filing by Twitter that included an estimate that less than 5% of Twitter users were spam and fake accounts. He previously said that ridding the platform of fake accounts, bots and spam would be one of his top priorities after taking office.

Twitter has few restrictions on creating an account, and the company has long struggled with spam and bots. But it was difficult to quantify the exact extent of the problem. As of May 2 regulatory filingTwitter warned that it exercised significant judgment in calculating the number of bots and that its estimate of fake accounts or spam may not accurately represent the true number, language similar to that used in earlier filings by the Twitter. society.

Twitter had leaked figures on fake accounts before Mr Musk made his offer, leaving some to view his comments as a tactic to drive down the price of the acquisition or a pretext to possibly pull out altogether. Shares of Twitter were trading at around $41 per share on Friday, down from the $54.20 per share Mr. Musk agreed to pay last month.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. In several tweets On Friday, Parag Agrawal, chief executive of Twitter, said a lot has happened over the past few weeks and said he expects the deal with Mr Musk to be done.

Withdrawing from the deal could get messy. Mr Musks’ deal with Twitter includes a $1 billion break fee if he were to opt out. But the cost to Mr. Musk could be much higher. The contract contains a specific performance clause that could require Mr. Musk to pay for Twitter if the debt financing he secured for the deal remains intact.

The specific execution is a court order saying, Elon Musk, I know you don’t want to, but you agreed to pay for this thing; you have to pay for it, said Brian Quinn, an associate professor at Boston College Law School who focuses on corporate mergers.

Mr Musk could also try to kill or renegotiate the deal by arguing that there was a significant adverse event. LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton tried this approach with its $16 billion acquisition of jeweler Tiffanys, citing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Tiffanys then sued LVMH, which eventually bought the jeweler at a lower price.

But the bar for such claims is high, the lawyers said. And because Mr. Musk mounted his offer at lightning speed, and without looking deeply into Twitter’s internal records before signing a deal, he may not have a strong case. Twitter could argue that it could have made itself more aware of some of the challenges facing the company and taken more time to look into its business.

Twitter and Mr. Musk have so far worked together to get the deal done, a person with knowledge of the matter said, though that dynamic could change quickly.

Mr. Musks’ hand could be strengthened by the uncertainty his offer has created within Twitter, which could potentially make it harder for the company to continue independently. The company has struggled to add users and generate more revenue, and on Thursday Mr Agrawal fired two senior executives, halted new hires and pledged to cut spending.

In his tweets on Friday, Mr. Agrawal said he was making changes because the deal with Mr. Musk was no excuse to avoid making important decisions for the health of the company. He added that Twitter was part of an industry that was currently in a very difficult macroeconomic environment.

Mr Musk has pledged to use his personal fortune to fund the Twitter deal, a plan that has been affected by a recent drop in stock prices, including Teslas. Tesla shares have fallen nearly 30% in the past month. Mr. Musk is both selling Tesla shares and pledging them as collateral for personal loans to raise cash.

If a deal were to be struck, Twitter’s business challenges could force Mr. Musk to dip deeper into his Tesla stock to plug any financial holes. And any problems at Tesla that cause its stock to fall far enough could trigger covenants in Mr. Musks’ personal loans that would require him to add more collateral, limiting his ability to invest in Twitter.

Tesla shares rose on Friday after comments from Mr. Musks.

The swings in Twitter and Tesla shares that followed Mr. Musks’ tweets could draw attention. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Mr. Musk with securities fraud in 2018 after he falsely tweeted that he had secured financing to take Tesla private, sending the automakers’ shares up 6%. Mr. Musk and Tesla paid a $40 million fine for the tweet. Legal action against Mr. Musk over the tweet is ongoing.

If I were his attorney, I’d spend the morning scrambling to figure out what the implications of all of this are under federal security law, said Faegre Drinker partner and former Securities and Exchange attorney Marc Leaf. Commission.

Mr. Leaf said Mr. Musk should be concerned about how securities regulators might react to Twitter posts that have direct ramifications for the company’s purchase agreement. He also said it was unclear whether Mr Musks’ Twitter posts would require an updated filing with regulators regarding his plans to take the social media company private, as they are considered material information to Investors. He said Mr Musks’ lawyers were likely discussing whether to do so at some point today.

Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Mr. Musk, did not return requests for comment.

Mr Musks’ tweet on Friday was not the first time he had taken on Twitter’s business. He raised questions about why celebrities and high-profile figures are no longer using the platform. It also targeted executives who oversee company policies for removing harmful and illegal content.

Kate Conger and Matthew Goldstein contributed report.




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