SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, Elon Musk has publicly trashed Twitter, even though he is buying the company in a $44 billion deal. On Thursday, he finally acted like an owner.
In an hour-long morning question-and-answer session with Twitter’s roughly 8,000 employees — the first time Musk has spoken to them since agreeing to buy the social media company in April — the world’s richest man He talked about his plans. for the service In a gushing and sometimes incoherent speech, he touched on topics as varied as growth, possible layoffs, anonymity, Chinese apps, the existence of extraterrestrial life forms, and even the cosmic nature of Twitter.
“I want Twitter to contribute to a better and longer-lasting civilization in which we better understand the nature of reality,” Musk said at the meeting, which was broadcast live to Twitter employees and heard by The New York Times.
The 50-year-old added that he hoped the service could help humanity “better understand the nature of the universe, as much as it is possible to understand.”
The meeting, which Musk participated in on his cell phone in what appeared to be a hotel room, suggested he was determined to close the blockbuster acquisition. His intentions had been in doubt in recent weeks when the billionaire, who also runs electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, repeatedly raised questions about the fake Twitter accounts in an apparent pretext to end or renegotiate the deal. .
Since April, the famously fickle Mr. Musk has tweeted that the purchase was “on hold” and accused Twitter of “actively resisting and thwarting” his rights. At another time, he had criticized some of the company’s executives. He made his incendiary comments as global markets slumped and Tesla shares, which are the main source of his wealth, plunged.
The antics of Musk, who is paying $54.20 a share to buy Twitter, left investors, company employees and others wondering what he might do. Shares of Twitter are now trading around $37. However, the company has insisted that the deal is still on track and that it has been sharing information with Musk, who must pay a $1 billion breakup fee if he pulls out.
On Thursday, Musk did not directly address whether he would close the deal with Twitter, but he made it clear to employees that he had big ambitions.
During the conversation, which was moderated by Twitter chief marketing officer Leslie Berland, Musk said he hoped to expand the service to more than a billion users worldwide. That would be almost four times the number of current users. He added that he was involved in Tesla and hoped to be on Twitter.
Even with such a performance, some warned that Musk could still change his mind about completing the deal for Twitter.
“I guess it’s operating both ways,” said Ann Lipton, a professor of corporate governance at Tulane Law School. “Maybe he wants to lower the price or even cancel the deal. If the deal goes through, he wants additional investors.”
He added: “Speaking publicly with Twitter employees, trying to assuage their concerns, perhaps provides reassurance to potential investors. But I’m not sure if that’s your Plan B or your Plan A.”
Twitter declined to comment on the meeting, and Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
Musk had been scheduled to speak to Twitter employees weeks ago, but the session did not take place. Then over the past week, the San Francisco-based company began collecting questions for him from employees on its internal Slack messaging system. The meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. San Francisco time, started a few minutes late, and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal thanked Musk.
Musk then began answering questions, including about remote work. This month, he sent memos to Tesla and SpaceX workers saying he expected them to be in the office 40 hours a week. Twitter employees have largely worked remotely in the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Musk told Twitter employees that he was open to working remotely, given that developing software is different from showing up every day to build cars. But he said a widespread lack of participation in the office could contribute to a decline in “esprit de corps” and hoped that people would be willing to go to the office more in the future.
Musk avoided directly answering whether there would be layoffs on Twitter, though his response was somewhat ominous.
“Right now, the costs outweigh the revenue,” he said. “That’s not a great situation.”
At another point, he veered into a discussion of whether extraterrestrial life was possible, though it was unclear where he got it right. He also mentioned Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok as aspirational, since WeChat is so integrated into people’s daily lives in China and TikTok “isn’t boring.”
One improvement Musk said he wanted to make was to add payments technology to Twitter. Ideally, users would be able to send money back and forth through the service, similar to how products like Venmo or Square Cash work.
How Elon Musk’s Twitter deal unfolded
A very successful deal. Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has capped off what seemed like an unlikely attempt by the famously fickle billionaire to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion. Here’s how the deal unfolded:
Musk, a longtime Twitter power user with more than 98 million followers, has long said he believes the company’s potential is underutilized. He has added that he hopes to rejuvenate the service out of the eye of public markets by taking the company private and making significant changes to the way Twitter operates.
Inside Twitter, some employees have had mixed feelings about Musk. Some have said they are concerned about his Twitter habits and his shady politics.
On Thursday, SpaceX employees circulated a memo saying they were also concerned about their CEO’s public behavior, particularly how he acted on Twitter, and that it reflected poorly on employees.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” said the letter, which was obtained by The Times and previously reported by the edge. “As our most prominent CEO and spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX: every tweet Elon sends is a de facto public statement from the company.”
Others on Twitter said they were concerned about how Musk wants to take a laissez-faire approach to policing the platform.
On Thursday, he stressed that he wanted to make Twitter as inclusive a platform as possible, mainly by gaining more users, adding that he would not allow criminal acts to be committed on the network. He said that he also didn’t want people to use their real names on Twitter and that it was useful to use pseudonyms to express political views on the service.
Some Twitter employees, who have pointed to Musk’s reputation as an innovator, said they were heartened after Thursday’s meeting. Musk was not hostile and seemed to have a vision for the product, despite failing to state it clearly at times, they said. Others said he hadn’t responded to their questions, with one employee writing in an internal Slack message seen by The Times that “if you had a drink every time he answered a question, you’d be painfully sober by the end of it.” . East.”
Musk was noncommittal when asked if he planned to take over as CEO at Twitter when he takes control of the company. He said that he was not a traditional CEO and pointed to his title at Tesla, which is Technoking. But he also noted that he had a lot of ideas for product updates and how the service should evolve, and that he would share them with others within the company.
“I hope you’ll listen to me on this,” Musk said.
Ryan Mac Y Lauren Hirsch contributed report.