Let me state this clearly: I have no desire to waste my time or yours documenting the latest twist in the tragicomedy that is Elon Musk’s farcical on-again, off-again bid for Twitter.
Time and again I endeavored to wring something meaningful out of this story. I drove down every editorial road, including the “surveillance capitalist” lane, which at least merged with my long-running “gods” thesis that says there’s a wealth threshold beyond which mortals become super-humans to the detriment of society.
I also made every joke, from the obvious (the entire premise was comically oxymoronic: “I’ll free Twitter from the tyrannical influence of liberal censorship by bringing it under the control of one man — me,” Musk seemed to be saying) to the nuanced.
And I lamented the extent to which blanket media coverage suggested one man’s whims were becoming synonymous with everyone else’s reality, commensurate, of course, with the size of that man’s fortune.
While some detours were worthwhile, some jokes funny and some observations a modicum of novel, I was left to conclude, after three months, that the story was simpler than I cared to admit. It goes something like this:
- Musk was addicted to Twitter.
- He was also annoyed by certain aspects of Twitter.
- He made his annoyance public on Twitter.
- People on Twitter encouraged him to buy Twitter.
- He was rich enough to buy Twitter.
- He decided to buy Twitter.
- He bought Twitter.
- He got buyer’s remorse.
- He tried to return Twitter, claiming it was defective.
- Twitter didn’t want Twitter back.
- The matter went to court.
Twitter’s case is (very) strong, but Musk is (very) rich. A whistleblower turned up with accusations that seemed to support some of Musk’s claims, and exactly nobody believes Twitter doesn’t have a bot problem. But none of that is sufficient to prove a material adverse effect. In fact, meeting that standard is next to impossible. Even when you’re the richest person in history and even when you’ve proven over and over that the rule of law doesn’t apply to you.
On September 13, Twitter shareholders (with one notable exception) voted overwhelming in favor of the original deal. Ari Emanuel reportedly got involved, adding to the circus atmosphere. Subpoenas are flying acrobats, lawyers are fire jugglers and there’s a trainer called “Kathaleen” pretending to control a $250 billion elephant who, at any time, might go rogue and trample the audience.
All of this for what? Nothing, apparently. Because Tuesday’s story was a “new” Musk offer for Twitter which sounded a lot like the old offer, where “a lot like” means the exact same deal price — $54.20. As it turns out, it’s the same deal. Musk wants to revive it to avoid more litigation. Or at least that’s the way it sounds.
“We write to notify you that the Musk Parties intend to proceed to closing of the transaction contemplated by the April 25, 2022 Merger Agreement, on the terms and subject to the conditions set forth therein and pending receipt of the proceeds of the debt financing contemplated thereby, provided that the Delaware Chancery Court enter an immediate stay of the action, Twitter vs. Musk, et al. and adjourn the trial and all other proceedings related thereto pending such closing or further order of the Court,” a Monday letter to Twitter read.
The shares obviously surged. By Tuesday afternoon, the stock traded at just a 4% discount to the original offer. It was nearly 40% lower in July (figure below).
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Twitter intended to accept. There was some concern that Musk was resorting to (more) gamesmanship ahead of a scheduled deposition. Should Twitter agree, they’d doubtlessly ask the court to ensure Musk doesn’t back out. Again.
This is (far) too ridiculous for my liking, and, I hope, for yours. There’s still no indication as to what Musk might do with Twitter in the event he does indeed end up acquiring the company.
Since we’re on the subject, I’d be remiss not to note that Musk is currently engaged in a war of words on Twitter with (unfortunately) Ukraine. In a wildly presumptuous tweet, he posited a resolution to the conflict which, among other things, would entail rerunning Russia’s sham referendums in occupied territory under UN supervision to determine their fate.
Musk also suggested permanently ceding Crimea to Putin and said Ukraine should “remain neutral.” “This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end,” he mused, before demonstrating his affinity for the tactless: “[It’s] just a question of how many die before then.”
For what it’s worth, that isn’t a “highly likely” outcome. The referendums won’t be rerun under UN supervision. The US would never agree to such a thing, nor would the UK or France, and the Ukrainian military would sooner die than accept such a thing. Literally. Also, Ukraine isn’t likely to “stay neutral.” Just last week, Volodymyr Zelensky formally applied to join NATO.
Musk polled his millions of Twitter followers on his ideas. It didn’t go well. 60% voted no. On Tuesday, undeterred by international condemnation, Musk tried again, setting up a new poll with the caption: “The will of the people who live in the Donbas and Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine.” To that, almost 60% said yes.
Of course, it’s all in how you word the question, and it also depends on who it is you’re asking. More importantly, Musk seems unaware of the fact that the population in Donbas is brainwashed by Russian propaganda. The referendums are a farce on multiple levels. The results are a foregone conclusion (they’re rigged by the Kremlin), and even if you ran them under UN supervision (as Musk suggested) you couldn’t get anything like a real result because the populace has spent years under the tyrannical influence of the Kremlin’s spin machine.
Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany responded to Musk: “F— off is my very diplomatic reply to you.” If they could go back and do it all over again, one imagines Twitter might tell Musk the same.