Ugh, the stupid saga drags on, and late Monday, Elon Musk did an about-face and said 'No, no, JK! Forget about the last four months, I actually do want to buy Twitter.'
What is Musk up to? At this point, one has to assume that we can't take him at his word and there is some ulterior motive. But hours after Musk tweeted out a highly controversial, boneheaded, four-part "proposal" for solving the Ukraine war — which TechCrunch surmises might have been an attempt at distraction from Tesla's disappointing third-quarter production numbers — he apparently approached Twitter and said he's ready to buy the company at his original price again, $44 billion.
As the New York Times reports, two people familiar with the deal said that Musk had returned Monday to his offer of $54.20 per share to take the company private — a deal already approved by Twitter shareholders — after months in which his bad-mouthing and antics had roiled the company and sent its share price much lower than it was when he made that offer in April.
Musk and Twitter are, of course, scheduled to appear in Delaware's Court of Chancery this month to hash out their dispute, after which Musk's hand might have been forced anyway by a judge. And the Times notes that Twitter hasn't indicated if it's going to take Musk's deal at this point or wait for the hearing, since this move "could be seen as a negotiating tactic by Mr. Musk to halt Twitter’s litigation against him."
Bloomberg was the first to report the news of the latest proposal from Musk, noting via another source close to the deal that Musk's legal team was already reading the tea leaves and seeing they may lose in court. They cited the fact that the Delaware judge in the case, Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick, had already repeatedly sided with Twitter in pre-trial motions.
This latest proposal also follows after a week in which a trove of texts between Musk and his wealthy friends were released in the case, showing how people were clamoring to get in on the deal with him, or to have their own influence over Twitter.
As many analysts have pointed out since the deal was first announced, Musk likely didn't put a wealth of forethought into his offer to buy Twitter — as Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine puts it, "it did not involve any spreadsheets." The $54.20 share price is a weed joke, Musk was goaded on by his fanboys on Twitter and his billionaire buddies via text, and it probably seemed like a good idea for minute. Then he seemed to get buyer's remorse, and the accusations of under-estimates of spambots began, either as a pretext to kill the deal or as a tactic to renegotiate his price. (As we learned in August, embarrassingly for Musk, the source of data he was using, a basic tool called Bot-o-meter, had once deemed Musk's own account a likely bot.)
But hey! $44 billion is nothing to sniff at, even for Musk, so perhaps it would have been more irresponsible just to plow through with the deal as-is.
Musk was scheduled to be deposed in the Delaware case in Austin later this week. And if the deal can be settled quickly, it will mean fewer embarrassments to come, and a likely end to the court business. Twitter's stock already shot up several points on news of the proposal, leading to trading being halted.
What this means for the future of Twitter is hard to say. Musk has pledged, at least in theory, to let Donald Trump and his ilk back on the platform, and it's all but certain that Twitter employees aren't too psyched about any of this.
Even without this deal, Musk remains Twitter's largest shareholder, holding 10% of the company as of earlier this year. As Bloomberg notes, he didn't even vote when the deal came before shareholders last month.
Top image: Elon Musk after a T-Mobile and SpaceX joint event on August 25, 2022 in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The two companies announced plans to work together to provide T-Mobile cellular service using Starlink satellites. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)