Business

How Twitter’s Board Went From Fighting Elon Musk to Accepting Him


Twitter’s board had reached the top of the street.

It was April 24. Ten days earlier, Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, made an unsolicited bid to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share. Alarmed by the out-of-the-blue proposal and unsure if the provide was for actual, the social media firm had adopted a “poison pill,” a defensive maneuver to cease Mr. Musk from accumulating extra of its shares.

However by that Sunday, Twitter was working out of selections. Mr. Musk had lined up financing for his provide and was needling the corporate together with his tweets. And after hours of discussions and reviewing Twitter’s plans and funds, the questions the 11 board members had been wrestling with — may the corporate be price greater than $54.20 a share? would another bidder emerge? — had been all main to at least one dissatisfying reply: No.

Lower than 24 hours later, the blockbuster $44 billion deal was introduced.

“What I’ll let you know is that primarily based on the evaluation and the notion of threat, certainty and worth, the board unanimously determined the provide from Elon represented the very best worth for our shareholders,” Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, instructed the corporate’s greater than 7,000 staff on Monday in a name that The New York Occasions listened to.

A central thriller of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is how the corporate’s board went from putting in a poison tablet to agreeing to promote to him in simply 11 days. In most megadeals, the adoption of a poison tablet results in a protracted battle. The tactic is a transparent sign that an organization intends to battle. Negotiations then drag out. Generally consumers stroll away.

However interviews with a dozen folks near the transaction, who weren’t licensed to talk publicly, present simply how few choices Twitter’s board had.

And whereas there are various kinds of consumers that deal advisers are ready to fend off — hostile ones, aggressive ones, those that lowball after which are prepared to barter — Twitter confronted an acquirer in Mr. Musk who was not in any deal playbook. In essence, he was an “unknown amount” acquirer, one who wouldn’t budge on worth and was ready to publicly trash the corporate and wield his appreciable fortune to get an settlement performed with restricted diligence.

“Regular consumers may truly say, ‘Effectively, you already know, we truly need to speak to the parents inside and see how is the enterprise going and get extra knowledge than is offered to the general public,’” stated Edward Rock, a professor of company governance on the New York College Faculty of Regulation. “What was fascinating,” he stated, is that the Twitter board “reached a deal in a brief time period — and such an unconditional deal.” He known as the deal’s velocity “uncommon.”

Twitter declined to touch upon its board discussions. Mr. Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The groundwork for a deal was laid in January, when Mr. Musk started shopping for Twitter inventory, ultimately increase a more than 9 percent stake within the firm. When he made his holdings identified in a securities submitting in early April, Twitter offered him a board seat. Mr. Musk briefly agreed to the concept earlier than changing his mind.

As a substitute, on the night of April 13, Mr. Musk despatched a textual content message to Mr. Taylor, who has been Twitter’s chairman since 2016. (Mr. Taylor can also be a co-chief government of the software program firm Salesforce.)

“I’m going to ship you a proposal letter tonight, it is going to be public within the morning,” Mr. Musk wrote to Mr. Taylor. The change was included in a securities filing.

The subsequent morning, a bare-bones provide letter arrived from Mr. Musk. It declared his intention to purchase Twitter for $54.20 a share, nevertheless it had few particulars about his plans for the corporate or the financing.

Mr. Musk employed the funding financial institution Morgan Stanley, tapping the companies of two bankers, Anthony Armstrong and Michael Grimes. Mr. Grimes, who heads Morgan Stanley’s expertise banking apply, led the 2012 public inventory providing of Fb and different tech firms, whereas Mr. Armstrong was a longtime tech banker who had not too long ago been promoted to firm vice chairman.

Twitter’s board didn’t fairly know methods to deal with Mr. Musk’s bid, the folks with data of the discussions stated. Mr. Musk didn’t have a monitor report of shopping for firms and had not adopted by means of on some offers, together with one in 2018 when he tweeted that he would take his carmaker, Tesla, personal however then did not do so.

A day after Mr. Musk’s bid grew to become public, Twitter’s board voted unanimously to sluggish him down by authorizing the poison pill. To defend itself, Twitter turned to Goldman Sachs, its longtime banker, and JPMorgan Chase. For authorized recommendation, it added the regulation agency Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to complement its longtime regulation agency, Wilson Sonsini.

JPMorgan declined to remark. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Simpson Thacher didn’t instantly have feedback.

Mr. Musk was undeterred. His bankers started trying to corral tens of billions of dollars in financing for a Twitter deal. His advisers introduced potential lenders with a number of pages vaguely outlining Mr. Musk’s targets. The billionaire additionally talked instantly with banks, an individual with data of the calls stated.

That helped persuade Citigroup, Financial institution of America, BNP Paribas and different banks to place their cash in. Regardless of an absence of particulars about Mr. Musk’s plans, lenders had been reassured partly by the entrepreneur’s previous successes and wealth, the individual stated.

Mr. Musk additionally campaigned on Twitter for a deal. He hinted that he would take his proposal on to shareholders in a so-called tender provide if the corporate’s board didn’t settle for his bid. On April 16, he tweeted, “Love me tender.” Three days later, he tweeted “____ is the Night time,” a reference to the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, “Tender Is the Night time.”

Twitter’s board fractured. On April 16, Jack Dorsey, a Twitter founder who stepped down as chief executive in November and is a board member, tweeted that the board had been the “constant dysfunction of the corporate.” When requested by a Twitter person whether or not he was allowed to say that, Mr. Dorsey responded, “no.”

Mr. Dorsey’s criticism rankled different board members and Twitter executives, stated two individuals who labored on the deal. Mr. Taylor requested Mr. Dorsey to cease tweeting negatively, one individual stated. Mr. Dorsey continued posting references to Twitter’s board.

A spokesman for Mr. Dorsey declined to remark. A spokeswoman for Mr. Taylor declined to remark.

On April 21, Mr. Musk lined up $46.5 billion in financing. He had obtained commitments from Morgan Stanley and different lenders for $13 billion in debt financing, whereas one other group of banks promised $12.5 billion in loans in opposition to his inventory in Tesla. Mr. Musk added that he would use one other $21 billion in money to purchase the remainder of Twitter’s fairness.

The financing compelled Twitter’s board to take Mr. Musk significantly. No different gives for the corporate had emerged, two folks aware of the deliberations stated.

At Twitter, Mr. Taylor weighed employee uncertainty and the societal implications of a deal versus the board’s fiduciary responsibility, folks with data of the scenario stated. That meant making a call primarily based on whether or not Twitter may fairly obtain a worth higher than what Mr. Musk had put ahead.

Mr. Taylor and different board members debated whether or not Twitter’s person and income development prospects had been real looking. The San Francisco firm, which had not turned a revenue for eight of the final 10 years, had set aggressive enterprise targets.

Twitter had additionally initially benefited from the pandemic, attracting a surge of recent customers and sending its inventory to greater than $77 in February 2021. However its promoting enterprise lagged these of rivals, and because the pandemic increase wore off, its shares fell under $40.

Nonetheless, some board members had been cautious about having a saviorlike determine reminiscent of Mr. Musk swoop in, particularly since Twitter had already relied upon such figures — together with Mr. Dorsey — to proper the ship, two folks stated.

Mr. Musk started getting ready to begin a young provide for Twitter, stated one individual near the discussions. He had a possible ally on Twitter’s board in Egon Durban, a co-chief government of the personal fairness agency Silver Lake, who had labored with Mr. Musk on his failed 2018 effort to take Tesla personal. However Mr. Durban made clear to the board that Silver Lake was not teaming up with Mr. Musk to supply financing for a takeover, two folks stated.

By way of a spokesman, Mr. Durban declined to remark.

Final Saturday, Mr. Musk spoke with Mr. Taylor and threatened to take his provide on to Twitter’s shareholders, with out explicitly saying he would begin a hostile bid, an individual with data of the decision stated.

On Sunday, Twitter’s board concluded that it needed to make a take care of Mr. Musk. The corporate couldn’t hit $54.20 a share by itself, board members agreed, and no white knight was coming.

Mr. Taylor instructed Mr. Musk that Twitter would proceed with a sale, an individual with data of the decision stated. Even so, Mr. Musk despatched a letter to Mr. Taylor threatening a hostile bid.

Twitter’s advisers homed in on protections for the deal, like a breakup fee if Mr. Musk walked away and a six-month timeline to closing the deal, which might be significantly essential if expertise shares proceed to fall. Mr. Musk’s advisers shored up financing particulars, with the billionaire personally signing off on every level, an individual aware of the negotiations stated.

After the settlement was introduced on Monday afternoon, Mr. Musk took a victory lap.

“Yesss!!!” he tweeted, posting emojis of rockets, stars and hearts.

Anupreeta Das, Maureen Farrell and Kate Conger contributed reporting.





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