Private Texts Reveal World’s Rich and Famous Groveling to Elon Musk

Hordes of wealthy and prominent figures acted like Musk's typical reply guys, all clamoring for the chance to get in on his Twitter deal.
Private Texts Reveal World’s Rich and Famous Groveling to Elon Musk
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As part of Twitter's lawsuit against Elon Musk for his attempt to renege on acquiring the company for $44 billion, countless of Musk’s text messages were made public and published by the New York Times yesterday. The gang's all there: tech executives, various podcasters, media executives, and more, all vying for Musk’s attention to pitch ideas about Twitter, social media companies, or a chance to be part of Musk’s purchase.

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It’s clear from the texts that, for a long while, Musk was quite serious about acquiring the company and cast a wide web in pursuit of funding (and also brow beat anyone who was complicating his attempts at fundraising). The texts span from January to June, with Musk expressing concerns early in May before turning on a heel and trying to scuttle the deal altogether.

dIt’s also clear that, in private, some of the richest and most famous people in the world are not all that different from the random reply guys that appear underneath every single one of Musk’s tweets. They encourage him to take control of Twitter, kiss his ass, and offer all types of help to one of the richest men that has ever lived. Tech investor Jason Calacanis literally offers to jump on a grenade for him.

Calanacis is a persistent presence in Musk's texts, usually in the form of long chains of texts and ideas that Musk only sometimes engaged with. After Musk makes public his offer to take Twitter private at $54.20, a stream of unsolicited advice begins to pour in on April 14. He suggests that Musk should troll a Saudi Arabian prince shareholder who rejected Musk's deal with $54.21 (“the perfect counter”).

Those texts go unanswered, so Calacanis continues the next day with more. "You could easily clean up bots and spam and make the service viable for many more users — removing bots and spam is a lot less complicated than what the Tesla self driving team is doing," Calacanis tells Musk. "And why should blue check marks be limited to the elite, press and celebrities? How is that democratic?"

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He does quick envelope math to calculate revenue per employee, which gets a reply from Musk about the "Insane potential for improvement" and so another stream follows. Calacanis drools over the prospect of a 20 percent “voluntary departures” if Twitter institutes an in-person work requirement, then shares a reply he made to Musk on Twitter just in case he didn't see it suggesting "Twitter Essays" as a premium feature for paid members. You’d be able to write up to 5,000 words, have it featured on your profile, and ensure every follower sees it at least once, he maintains. "I mean, the product road map is beyond obviously[sic]."

There’s a funny moment of juxtaposition when Palantir cofounder Joe Lonsdale (more on him later) texts Musk that "even Governor DeSantis just called me just now with ideas how to help you and outraged at that board and saying the public is rooting for you.” While Lonsdale is offering to connect DeSantis to Musk, Calacanis is talking about building a DAO to help buy Twitter shares: "Money goes to buy twitter shares, if you don't wine[sic] money goes to open source twitter competitor [laughing emojis]"

At one point, the bootlicking seems to have paid off. Musk asks Calacanis if he'd want to serve as a strategic advisor and the investor jumps: "Board member, advisor, whatever... you have my sword," he tells Musk. "Put me in the game coach! Twitter CEO is my dream job."

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Calcanis wasn't the only one pushing Musk to buy Twitter and let them run it. Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer pitched Musk as well: "We run it for you. And you establish a true platform of free speech. Would be a real contribution to democracy." Musk said it was an "Interesting idea" and Döpfner continued on: "I'm serious. It's doable. Will be fun."

Back to Calacanis, things began to shift when it became clear Calacanis was a little too eager to help out. "What is going on with you marketing an SPV to randos? This is not okay," Musk writes later in May. SPVs are Special Purpose Vehicles, legal instruments usually used for a specific purpose—here, it was likely to raise money from investors eager to get in on Twitter (and earn fees on handling those funds).

"Not randos, I have the largest angel syndicate and that's how I invest. We've done 250+ deals like this and we know all the folks. I though[sic] that was how folks were doing it," Calacanis explains. "$100m+ on commitments, but if that not ok it's fine. Just wanted to support the effort. ~300 QPs and 200 accredited investors said they would do it. It's not an open process obviously, only folks already in our syndicate. There is *massive* demand to support your effort btw...people really want to see you win."

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"Morgan Stanley and Jared think you are using our friendship not in a good way. This makes it seem like I'm desperate," Musk replies. "Please stop."

Calacanis quickly backs off, alternating between defending himself and buttering up Musk to minimize the damage. "Candidly, This deal has just captures[sic] the worlds imagination in an unimaginable way. It's bonkers...," Calacanis wrote. "And you know I'm ride or die brother — I'd jump on a grenade for you."

And for that, Musk gave his message a heart react. Heartwarming.

Lonsdale is another interesting person to appear in Musk’s texts. After Musk posted on Twitter asking "Should Twitter be an open source?" Lonsdale hits up Musk to gush about how brilliant that question was. 

“I love your ‘Twitter algorithm should be open source; tweet - I'm actually speaking to over 100 members of congress tomorrow at the GOP policy retreat and this is one of the ideas I'm pushing for reigning in crazy big tech,” Lonsdale wrote. “Now I can cite you so I'll sound less crazy myself :). Our public squares need to not have arbitrary sketchy censorship."

Musk fires back: "What we have right now is hidden corruption!"

On April 4, after news of the Twitter stake broke, Lonsdale appears again: “Excited to see the stake in Twitter - awesome. “Back door man” they are saying ha ha. Hope you’re able to influence it. I bet you the board doesn’t even get full reporting or see any report of the censorship decisions and little cabals going on there but they should - the lefties on the board likely want plausible deniability!”

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Twitter’s former chief executive CEO Jack Dorsey and Musk began exchanging messages around March 26—before Musk’s Twitter stake was publicly revealed but after Musk had asked on Twitter if a new platform was needed. “Yes, a new platform is needed. It can’t be a company. This is why I left,” Dorsey texted him later that day before pitching him on the idea of turning Twitter into an open source protocol. Musk would later advocate on Twitter for making Twitter’s algorithm open source—it’s not clear if he understands how different the two proposals are.

“Super interesting idea,” Musk replied before Dorsey revealed that he had wanted Musk on the board last year before leaving but was blocked by activist Elliot Management who demanded changes of Twitter in pursuit of profitability.

“I think the main reason is the board is just super risk averse and saw adding you as more risk, which I thought was completely stupid and backwards, but I only had one vote, and 3% of company, and no dual class shares. Hard set up. We can discuss more.”

Their conversation picks up again on April 5, after it’s announced Musk would join the company’s board. Dorsey warns Musk about the board again, hypes up Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and adds that "I couldn't be happier you're doing this. I've wanted it for a long time. Got very emotional when I learned it was finally possible.”

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On April 4, Joe Rogan pops up to ask Musk "Are you going to liberate twitter from the censorship happy mob?" Musk replies that he'll just "provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow." Weeks later, Rogan pops up again: "I REALLY hope you get Twitter,” Joe Rogan texted on April 25. “If you do, we should throw a hell of a party.” Musk shot back a 100 emoji. 

Other media personalities were hitting Musk up as well, including host of CBS Mornings Gayle King and Justin Roiland, the voice of the titular main characters of the cartoon TV show “Rick & Morty.” 

King texts Musk on April 6 in an attempt to convince him to come on her show, but after learning Musk wants to buy Twitter, she fires off a more urgent text on April 14: "ELON! You buying twitter or offering to buy twitter Wow! Now Don't you think we should sit down together face to face this is as the kids of to say say a 'gangsta move' I don't know how shareholders turn this down ..like I said you are not like the other kids in the class...."

King’s not alone in her love for the move. "I fucking love that you're the majority owner of Twitter," Roiland text Musk on April 6, when Musk only owned 9 percent of the company. Roiland offers to connect Musk to friends that were working on identity verification software.

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We've also got the president of Riot Games, Mark Merril, who is not a TV personality, but had an interesting comment related to one: "You are the hero Gotham needs — hell F'ing yes!"

There is one appearance that was surprising, but probably shouldn’t have been given their already established ideological ties, and it’s of Will MacAskill. MacAskill has been integral in catalyzing effective altruism's transformation into longtermism, ingratiating the movement with Silicon Valley funders. This makes sense given the ideology, at its core, uses fear of artificial intelligence and far-flung humanity extinction risks to paper over a multitude of today's political, social, and economic problems—sound familiar?

On March 29, MacAskill texts him after seeing his Twitter poll on free speech and pitches introducing Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, a crypto billionaire who runs the FTX exchange and also described key sectors of crypto as glorified Ponzi schemes. "I'm not sure if this is what's on your mind but my collaborator Sam bankman-Fried has for a while been potentially interested in purchasing it and then making it better for the world. If you want to talk with him about a possible joint effort in that direction, his number is [redacted] and he's on Signal."

Elon’s follow up is simple: "Does he have huge amounts of money?"

MacAskill dithers a bit. "Depends on how you define 'huge'! He's worth $24B, and his early employees (with shared values) bump that up to $30B. I asked about how much he could in principle contribute and he said: "~$1-3b would be easy ~3-8b I could do ~$8-15b is maybe possible but would require financing."

After offering to facilitate a meeting in Austin next week, Musk says "That's a start." MacAskill double texts Musk "Would you like me to intro you via text" before Musk asks if MacAskill vouches for him (he does) then agrees. MacAskill shares some more information about SBF after introducing the two, Musk offers to talk later that day, but it seems whatever discussions they may have had went nowhere. On April 21, Musk's wealth manager brings up SBF when Musk is shooting around his blockchain social media idea as someone who is thinking along similar lines, but nothing comes from it.

That SBF wasn’t able to get in on this Twitter deal is interesting because Musk ended up going with Changpeng Zhao, the head of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, as an investor to the tune of $500 million—a far cry from the money MacAskill claimed SBF could raise easily ($1-8b). Both SBF and Zhao have ideas about combining blockchain technology and social media platforms, both have hoards of capital to sit on from crypto speculation even after the most recent crypto crashes and slumps, but Binance is arguably the more sketchy one. It’s Binance, after all, that has been accused of interfering with crypto markets to keep the speculative asset afloat and a history of lax enforcement of anti-money laundering rules in pursuit of persistent customer and market growth. FTX, by contrast, was just involved in propping up key crypto platforms to prevent a deeper collapse of crypto asset prices earlier this year.