Barely a week goes by without Elon Musk getting in the headlines. The Tesla and SpaceX founder’s latest stunt? Not content with just having one of the most followed Twitter accounts on the planet, the notoriously libertarian (and libertine) billionaire has finally secured a $44 billion hostile takeover of the landmark social media platform.
Musk, who is already the largest single investor in Twitter Inc. (owning over 9% of the company’s shares), is going to take Twitter totally private after previously lambasting company management and saying only he can unlock the “extraordinary potential” of the platform, Bloomberg reports.
Musk’s offer is that he’ll pay $54.20 per share in cash, which is 38% above the price on April 1st, the last trading day before Musk went public with his stake. Previously, Musk had agreed to a deal that’d see him join Twitter’s board of directors and prohibit him from acquiring more than 14.9% of the company – but he decided not to join the board before his appointment became effective on April 9th. Seems he’d rather own Twitter outright.
It’s a characteristically bold move from Musk, who’s long criticised Twitter for its seeming lack of commitment to free speech and has long used the platform to share updates on his business ventures, dabble in drama and share memes.
🚀💫♥️ Yesss!!! ♥️💫🚀 pic.twitter.com/0T9HzUHuh6— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
Though it might be better for free speech on the platform, we’re uneasy about the prospect of ‘The Dogefather‘ running Twitter. But what we do know is this: it’s all very entertaining, this is one of the biggest buyouts in American corporate history, and it seems that Elon Musk has made corporate raiding cool again. Because what is this buyout if not the biggest corporate raid in history?
What’s corporate raiding, exactly? A corporate raid describes a particular type of hostile takeover where a business or individual (a ‘corporate raider’) purchases a large stake in another business and then uses shareholder voting rights to force it to undertake novel measures – usually to increase the share value, and usually in opposition to the desires and practices of current management.
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Corporate raiding was big in the 1980s, with figures like Carl Ichan, T. Boone Pickens and Paul Bilzerian (yep, Dan Bilzerian’s dad) becoming notorious for the practice. Michael Douglas’ iconic character Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film Wall Street – with his famous “greed is good” line – personifies the unscrupulous corporate raider, and still looms large in the public consciousness.
But as much as aspiring Wall Street bros idolise Gekko (just like they idolise Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street), he’s a villain. Corporate raiders have always been seen as villains. But Elon Musk might change that perception.
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Regardless of what you think about him, it’s hard to deny that Musk has been responsible for huge perception shifts around electric vehicles as well as spaceflight. By framing his corporate raiding attempt as a defence of free speech and a way to further some sort of technocratic, utopian democracy, could Musk make corporate raiding socially acceptable?
Moreover, could Musk influence other activist investors to follow his lead and launch takeovers (hostile or otherwise) of other influential tech businesses, like Google, Facebook or Uber?
That said, it’s not clear whether Musk’s Twitter ploy really fits the definition of a corporate raid – especially seeing as Twitter has finally come to the table (although we can hardly say they did so totally willingly – they had previously expressed opposition to the bid and there were rumours they planned to implement a ‘poison pill’ to prevent it, as The New York Times reported).
Elon hasn’t announced any really concrete plans for what he’d do to Twitter if he bought the business, but from what he’s said so far, it seems he’d want to enact some pretty radical changes, which is certainly what corporate raiders typically do.
But unlike corporate raiders, he doesn’t seem motivated by pure profit – nor does he want to just liquidate Twitter or use it to boost Tesla or SpaceX’s bottom lines, for example. We doubt Musk would want to own Twitter indefinitely (that would seem to go against his anti-monopolistic and free speech stances), but it doesn’t look like he just wants to sell it on, either.
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While free speech advocates and Elon fanboys are very happy about all of this, the rest of the market has been somewhat hesitant. Tesla’s stock price has been trending downwards ever since Musk went public with his Twitter aspirations, with investors clearly seeing Musk’s fixation on acquiring the social media platform as negative for his other ventures.
Ah well. We’d rather Musk own Twitter than Donald Trump…