Here is a theory of Elon Musk and Twitter:
- Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter, for some set of personal, philosophical or political reasons. He is addicted to Twitter and wants to improve the user experience for himself, he wants to optimize Twitter to promote Tesla Inc. stock or right-wing politics, he has a principled commitment to free speech and wants to optimize Twitter for that, etc.
- He has plenty of money to buy Twitter (he’s the richest person in the world) and does not care about the economics of the deal. (“This is not a way to sort of make money,” he has said, adding that he doesn’t “care about the economics at all.”) He wants Twitter for personal reasons and is willing and able to spend $46 billion for those reasons, even if he never gets back a cent.
- He is, however, worried that someone might not let him buy Twitter. Maybe the Securities and Exchange Commission, annoyed by his securities-law violations in trying to buy Twitter, will somehow stop him. Maybe the Federal Trade Commission, annoyed by his antitrust-law violations in trying to buy Twitter, will block the deal. Maybe some other regulator will find some other reason to stop him. Maybe Twitter shareholders will vote against the deal, or maybe a few shareholders will sue to enjoin the deal because of some irregularity in the process. Maybe Twitter employees will quit en masse because they don’t like him and his vision for Twitter, leaving him with nothing to buy.
- So he is pretending not to want to buy Twitter as a simple bit of reverse psychology. This way, everyone who dislikes him and didn’t want him to buy Twitter will be like “I hate Elon Musk so much, it is imperative that he buy Twitter!”
This theory has a very low chance of being true… like 10%? Premise 1 is mostly true (he wants to own Twitter for mainly non-economic reasons), Premise 2 is mostly not (he does care about the economics, wants to syndicate his equity financing and is feeling a bit strained by the crash in social-media stocks and Tesla), Premise 3 is mostly not (no one is likely to block this deal), and the conclusion is mostly wrong (he really is angling to pay a lower price). But I don’t have huge confidence in any of those views, and at this point very little about Musk and Twitter would surprise me.
So for instance yesterday Insider broke a story that SpaceX paid a settlement over allegations that Musk offered to buy a flight attendant a horse in exchange for a sexual massage, and Musk tweeted that “it was clear that [Insider’s] only goal was a hit [piece] to interfere with the Twitter acquisition.” Which is a weird response! I do not think that this story will do anything at all to interfere with the Twitter acquisition, and Musk has been trying very hard to interfere with that acquisition himself. He has spent much of the last week interfering with it! He just doesn’t want anyone else to interfere with it. He wants to close the deal, but he wants his critics to think he doesn’t want to, so they won’t try to stop him.
Or: Three weeks ago, Twitter executives held an all-hands meetings with employees to, like, apologize for selling the company to Musk and console them for the change in ownership. Morale had declined, employees were angry and worried about the Musk deal, and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal tried to reassure them that it would be okay:
Agrawal concluded by asking employees to “embrace change.”
“Let’s embrace change. Let’s embrace uncertainty,” he said. “If we see this as an opportunity, it will manifest as an opportunity. If we see this as doom and gloom, it will manifest as doom and gloom.”
Yesterday Twitter executives held an all-hands meeting with employees to reassure them that the deal was closing:
Twitter Inc. executives told employees on Thursday that the $44 billion deal to sell the company to billionaire Elon Musk is moving forward as planned, and that they won’t renegotiate the agreed-upon price of $54.20 per share.
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and head of policy, also told workers at an all-hands meeting that there is “no such thing as a deal being on hold,” according to people who attended the meeting.
Morale had declined, employees were angry and worried about the Musk deal falling through, and they were happy to hear that Musk will probably be buying the company after all — the thing that made them sad three weeks ago. What changed? Well, for one thing, tech stocks fell, and the employees are probably more attached to their paychecks than they were three weeks ago. But for another thing, buying Twitter at $54.20 now somehow seems like a loss for Musk. So if you don’t like Musk, now you are rooting for it to happen.
He’s going to buy Twitter for $54.20 and show up for his first day of work as interim CEO and all the employees are going to be ecstatic to see him. The ones who like him will be happy because they like him, and the ones who hate him will be happy because they think he doesn’t want to be there. “Now you are stuck with us, haha,” they will say, pleased that they tricked him into buying Twitter. But he wanted to buy Twitter!