The world’s richest shitposter made it about four days before deciding that he wanted to be able to tweet whatever he wants and take over whatever company he should choose. On Saturday morning, mere days after Twitter revealed Elon Musk would join the company’s board, Musk informed Twitter that he would not be joining after all, CEO Parag Agrawal said in a statement shared publicly on Sunday night.
“I believe this is for the best,” said Agrawal, who added that he would “remain open” to Musk’s input, as he remains the company’s top shareholder.
News that Musk wouldn’t join the board led to wild speculation about why he had reversed course, with some zeroing in on Agrawal and noting that his approval had been “contingent” on him passing a background check. One Twitter employee suggested that the company had made the decision, not Musk, and publicly thanked them Monday morning.
“I’ve kept quiet since the announcement because I wanted to give Twitter leadership a chance to do right by it’s [sic] employees, and they did,” Twitter Director of ML Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability Rumman Chowdhury wrote Monday.
But Musk’s own amended SEC filing on Monday morning offered another explanation: Forgoing a board seat meant Musk could continue posting about Twitter and potentially increase his stake in the company or even take it over in the future. In exchange for the board seat, Musk had agreed not to increase his stake in the company above 14.9 percent through the company’s 2024 annual stockholder meeting, according to SEC filings, which effectively meant he wouldn’t take over the company for at least two years.
The Monday filing states that going forward, Musk may “acquire additional shares of Common Stock” and “express his views to the Board and/or members of the Issuer’s management team and/or the public through social media or other channels” (which is corporate speak for tweet whatever he wants).
Heroic as it might have been for Twitter to stand up to Musk, or hilarious as it would have been if the world’s richest man simply wanted to avoid (or even failed) a background check, it seems more likely that Twitter had offered Musk a seat as a way to placate and defang him, and that Musk decided in recent days that he didn’t want to be contained.
Twitter had announced the decision to appoint Musk to the board last Tuesday, soon after it was revealed that Musk has taken a 9.2 percent ownership stake in the company, which made him the company’s largest shareholder.
It was immediately clear that the news could be a problem for leadership. For a while now, Musk had made a hobby out of criticizing Twitter, suggesting in one series of March posts that Twitter did not adhere to free-speech principles and “fundamentally undermines democracy.” (“Is a new platform needed?” he added.) After his new stake was revealed, Musk almost immediately started trouble again, asking his followers in a tweet last Monday whether Twitter should add an edit button, a terrible idea some Twitter users have nevertheless desired for years.
Musk’s newfound power was readily apparent, though, as Agrawal responded to Musk’s poll that same day: “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
Retrospectively, Twitter leadership was already springing into action by then. Because by the next morning, Agrawal was announcing Musk was joining the board, saying that the company was “excited” and that he believed Musk would bring “great value” to the company.
The company had understood the risks inherent in inviting the occasionally erratic Tesla CEO onto the board but decided it “was the best path forward” as it meant Musk would have a fiduciary duty to “act in the best interest of the company,” Agrawal said Sunday evening. It also meant his tweet’s about the company could have fallen under SEC review, which has already caused him trouble (and cost him $40 million) in the past.
Nevertheless, news of Musk’s new role had reportedly led to outcry inside Twitter, and the company announced internally on Thursday that they would be invited to ask Musk about his intentions during an unusual and forthcoming open session. That didn’t seem to reduce the anger. After someone asked Chowdhury if she feared a hostile takeover on Monday morning, she replied, “It would be interesting to see how he’d run a company with no employees.”
Free from the shackles of the board, Musk got back to doing what he does best over the weekend: posting. He wrote tweets that asked "Is Twitter dying?", suggested Twitter removed ads and converted its headquarters into a homeless shelter, and polled followers about whether the company should "Delete the w in twitter?" After Agrawal released his statement, Musk also appeared to respond with that emoji of the face with a hand over a mouth.
Like a true poster, he has since deleted most of the tweets.