Twitter still wants to be sold to Elon Musk, executives at the social media giant said on Thursday – despite Musk’s claim last week that the deal was ‘on hold’, and his repeated questioning of the company’s user numbers.
Hours after the discussion, claims emerged that Musk had sexually harassed a flight attendant on a SpaceX corporate jet in 2016 – and was paid $250,000 for her silence in 2018.
Musk said there was ‘a lot more to the story’ and described it as ‘a politicially-motivated hit piece’.
Asked initially why he wanted to buy Twitter, the South African billionaire said it was to promote free speech, and that he intended to ‘clean up’ Twitter, and get rid of spam and bots. Then, on Friday, he said that the $44 billion deal was ‘temporarily on hold’ until Twitter could prove that less than 5 percent of its users were fake or spam accounts.
‘This is a big deal,’ he said on Monday at a podcast summit.
‘It seems like if you said, ‘Okay, I agree to buy your house.’ You say the house has less than 5 percent termites. That’s an acceptable number. But if it turns out it is 90 percent termites, that’s not okay. It’s not the same house.’
Musk remains convinced that Twitter’s leadership is not being honest with him about the number of bots, and on Thursday tweeted a meme of an astronaut, labeled ‘Elon’, staring into the abyss and saying: ‘Wait it’s all bots?’
Another astronaut, labeled ‘Twitter Board’, holds a gun to his head and replies: ‘Always has been.’
Elon Musk, 50, has repeatedly questioned whether high numbers of Twitter users are fake accounts. On Thursday he repeated his claim that executives were lying about the data
Musk on Thursday tweeted a meme showing himself looking at the Twitter data and realizing many accounts were bots – while the Twitter board said they always knew that
Musk on Thursday afternoon insisted he was not spending an excessive amount of time on the Twitter deal
When CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted a lengthy explanation of the 5 percent figure – which was stated in company documents before Musk made his offer – the billionaire responded with a poop emoji.
Parag Agrawal, the CEO of Twitter, has insisted less than 5pc of accounts are fake
On Thursday afternoon, Musk tweeted: ‘To be clear, I’m spending <5% (but actually) of my time on the Twitter acquisition. It ain't rocket science!
‘Yesterday was Giga Texas, today is Starbase. Tesla is on my mind 24/7.’
He attached the ‘distracted man’ meme, with him distracted by Twitter, while an annoyed Tesla looked on.
‘So may seem like below, but not true,’ Musk said.
Analysts have speculated that Musk may be fixing on the issue of fake accounts as a way of withdrawing from the deal, or driving the price down.
Amid the turmoil, Insider reported on Thursday that SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018.
The attendant worked as a member of the cabin crew on a contract basis for SpaceX’s corporate jet fleet.
She accused Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage, Insider reported.
Musk said there is ‘a lot more to this story.’
He added: ‘If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light,’ calling the story a ‘politically motivated hit piece.’
Yet staff at the San Francisco-based company were told on Thursday that the deal was still going ahead, according to sources who spoke to Bloomberg.
Musk said he was still committed to the $44 billion purchase of the social media company pending an investigation into how many spam accounts are on the site
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer, said on Thursday the deal was still going ahead
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and head of policy, who was in tears when she discussed Musk’s plans for the company last month, told workers at an ‘all-hands’ meeting that there is ‘no such thing as a deal being on hold. ‘
The deal will still go through for the $44 billion agreed on April 25, the executives said. The deal pegs Twitter’s shares at $54.20 each – a significant increase in their value over the last few weeks, where they have traded as low as $36.50.
Twitter stock jumped about 2 percent on the news of the meeting. Earlier the shares had declined by as much as 1.7 percent.
The stock closed on Thursday at $37.29.
Twitter’s stock rose slightly on news that executives said the deal would still proceed
Twitter’s share price has plummeted since Musk announced his offer had been accepted on April 25, amid fears he will pull out of the agreement
Gadde told employees that Musk must ‘do everything he can’ to make sure he gets his financing in order to close the deal.
She said that it’s possible Twitter could try and ‘enforce’ the terms of the deal ‘if we ever needed to do that in a court.’
She added that getting to that step would be ‘pretty rare.’
If the deal falls through, Musk must pay a $1 billion fee.
The world’s richest man, Musk is worth an estimated $210 billion – but he has lost $49 billion since his deal to buy Twitter was announced, according to Fortune. Tesla shares are now down 28 percent since Musk launched his bid to buy Twitter on April 14, causing the massive losses.
Ned Segal, Twitter’s chief financial officer, said that the gap in Twitter’s stock price and Musk’s offer was a reflection of some doubt that the deal would go through.
Musk said he could ‘in theory’ buy the company outright himself, but he has been working with investors to try and encourage them to come on board, and limit his own cash expenditure. Musk would have to sell shares in his other companies to pay for the Twitter purchase: he has sold some, but does not appear keen to sell more.
Segal said executives are still engaging with Musk and his team, and working with them ‘regularly’ throughout the process to prepare for Musk taking over.
Segal also discussed how Twitter’s board came to the decision to sell to Musk, which included an analysis of Twitter’s business projections if a deal didn’t happen.
Twitter’s annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 25.
The shareholder vote on whether to approve the deal with Musk will take place at a later date.