Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk has purchased 9.2% of Twitter stock, spiking its valuation and making him the largest individual shareholder in the social media company. The amount he paid is not known, but the stake was worth $2.89 billion Friday before, following the announcement on Monday morning, it became worth $3.5 billion (thanks, CNN).
Musk purchased 73,486,938 Twitter shares on 14 March, per a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The filing did not include anything about Musk's future intentions for the company.
Interestingly enough, this purchase came a couple of weeks before Musk 'announced' he was thinking about establishing a new social media platform. He of course took to twitter while pondering this, writing on March 26:
Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done? https://t.co/aPS9ycji37March 26, 2022
The above tweet was followed by a poll, with Musk asking his 80.2 million followers whether they believed twitter adhered to the values of free speech. After just over two million votes were cast, 70.4% said no.
Musk is, far more than most CEOs, a regular social media user and on occasion something of a troll. He regularly tweets business and life updates, but these are mixed-in with gnomic utterances, memes, and outright shitposting. At times Musk has got into serious hot water, particularly when he tweeted asking if he should take Tesla private: which understandably sent the company's valuation zig-zagging, and resulted in the SEC taking action against him.
While that dispute has been settled, it's resulted in ongoing scrutiny and, as recently as February, Musk's lawyers were railing against the SEC, saying: "The SEC seems to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government. The SEC's outsized efforts seem calculated to chill his exercise of First Amendment rights rather than to enforce generally applicable laws in even-handed fashion."
Which is useful context to bear in mind with the whole free speech angle: it means different things if you're a normie or a billionaire CEO. Musk has described himself as "a free speech absolutist" in the past (there in the context of refusing to ban Russian news sources from Starlink.)
Musk's 9.2% stake isn't enough for him to go in and start ordering Twitter around, but it makes him the single largest individual shareholder involved: by contrast, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey owns 2.25%.
Update: Shortly after the announcement of Musk's investment in Twitter, CEO Parag Agrawal announced that he is also being added to the company's board of directors.
He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term. Welcome Elon!April 5, 2022
"Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board," Agrawal tweeted. "He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term."