SAN FRANCISCO – For weeks Elon Musk ruined Twitter publicly. On Thursday he acted like he finally owned the company.
In an hour-long morning question-and-answer session with the roughly 8,000 Twitter workers — the first time Mr Musk has spoken to them since his strike a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company in April – the richest man in the world opened up about his plans for the service. In an exuberant and sometimes rambling speech, he touched on growth, potential layoffs, issues of anonymity, Chinese apps and even the cosmic nature of Twitter.
“I want Twitter to contribute to a better, long-lasting civilization where we better understand the nature of reality,” Mr. Musk said in the virtual meeting, which was livestreamed to Twitter employees and heard by The New York Times. He added that he hopes the ministry can help humanity “to better understand the nature of the universe, to understand as much as possible.”
The meeting, which Mr. Musk attended from his cell phone in a hotel room, suggested he was determined to secure the blockbuster deal. In recent weeks, his intentions towards Twitter have been in doubt. The billionaire, who also runs electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, has repeatedly raised questions about Twitter’s fake accounts. This month, his attorneys said The company refused to give him any informationan apparent pretext to possibly attempt to terminate or renegotiate the takeover.
Mr. Musk, who offered $54.20 a share to buy Twitter, may have changed his mind after global markets slumped. Twitter shares are now trading around $38. and Tesla shareswhich are Mr Musk’s main source of wealth have also plummeted.
In April, Mr. Musk agreed to buy Twitter without conducting due diligence. He’s on the hook for a $1 billion breakup fee when he goes away Under the terms of the deal, Twitter also has the right to sue him to force the acquisition to close if its leverage for the purchase remains intact.
Twitter has insisted the deal remains on track and that it has shared information with Mr Musk.
In his remarks on Thursday, Mr Musk did not directly address whether he would finalize the deal with Twitter. But he said he has big plans for the ministry.
In the call, which was moderated by Leslie Berland, Twitter’s chief marketing officer, Mr Musk said he hopes to grow the service to be used by more than a billion people around the world. That would be nearly four times the number of people currently using Twitter. He added that he has hands-on tenure at Tesla and is expected to do the same on Twitter, specifically being involved in the functions of the social media service.
“I expect they’ll listen to me on that,” Musk said.
Mr. Musk answered questions collected by Twitter employees on Slack’s internal messaging system over the past week.
Some of the questions concerned workplace culture, including teleworking. This month, Mr. Musk sent memos to workers at Tesla and SpaceX and said he expects them to be in the office 40 hours a week. Twitter employees have largely worked remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At the meeting, Mr Musk said he was open to Twitter workers working remotely, as developing software is different than showing up to build cars every day. However, he noted that a widespread lack of participation in office could contribute to dwindling “esprit de corps” and said he hoped people would be more willing to enter office in the future.
Mr Musk dodged a direct answer as to whether there would be any Twitter layoffs under his supervision, although his answer was ominous.
“Right now, costs are outstripping revenue,” he said. “It’s not a great situation.”
Mr. Musk, a longtime power user of Twitter with more than 98 million followers, has long said he believes the company’s potential is not being realised. He added that he hopes to rejuvenate the service outside of public markets by privatizing the company and making major changes to how Twitter works.
Within Twitter, some employees have mixed feelings about Mr. Musk. Some have said they are concerned about his Twitter habits and somber politics, and they are concerned about how he has said he prefers to monitor the platform laissez-faire. That has raised questions given the years Twitter has spent building its policy department.
Others point to Mr Musk’s reputation as an innovator. After previous Twitter executives set lofty financial and performance targets but failed to meet them, some employees said Mr. Musk could revitalize the company.