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: Twitter employees blanch at prospect of Musk ownership

The prospect of Elon Musk’s wrangling control of Twitter Inc. elicited a wide range of reaction — most of it revulsion — among current and former employees of the company.

A handful who spoke with MarketWatch on the condition that they not be named said the mercurial Musk would decimate Twitter’s
TWTR,
-1.68%

name, especially if he were to re-admit controversial figures jettisoned from the platform like former President Trump, should he be successful with his unsolicited bid.

Musk as the face of Twitter cheapens a brand carefully cultivated over years, groused one employee, who said, “The idea of a figure like Musk taking over is horrifying for the company’s reputation.”

Added another worker: “This all feels like a circus, a publicity stunt.”

Another simply summed up the hostile bid as a “s— show.”

The pushback among the rank and file started when Musk announced in April that he had acquired 9.1% of the company’s outstanding shares to become its largest shareholder, and has only intensified after his vow to transform Twitter into the world’s “platform for free speech” with a bare-bones hostile bid of $43 billion. (Twitter called an all-staff meeting late Thursday. Later that day, Musk said at the TED 2022 conference, “Having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.”)

But they all also are adamant the doomsday scenario is unlikely because the world’s richest man and Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
-3.66%

CEO made a shabby offer that Twitter’s board is almost certain to reject.

“The current offer is likely too low for TWTR’s shareholders/Board to approve the deal at essentially the midpoint of 1-year trading range,” Cowen analyst John Blackledge said in a note Thursday. “TWTR also has several anti-takeover provisions in place.”

Ultimately Musk’s gambit, however serious, could force Twitter’s board to consider other acquisition offers in addition to Musk’s as part of its fiduciary duty.

That, in turn, could put Twitter in play for another corporate suitor, possibly Google parent Alphabet Inc.
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-2.44%

GOOG,
-2.33%
,
Amazon.com Inc.
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-2.47%
,
Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.
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-2.24%

or a media conglomerate like Comcast Corp.
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-0.69%
.

There is a catch to that storyline, though: Should any big tech company swoop in and scoop up Twitter, it would promptly meet resistance from either the Federal Trade Commission or Justice Department on antitrust grounds.

The FTC is currently locked in a legal battle with Facebook over its purchases of Instagram a decade ago and and of WhatsApp in 2014.

“I think it is likely to run into far too many antitrust headwinds — and complicate matters for Google in ways they don’t really want these days,” Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told MarketWatch.

One intriguing possibility is Apple Inc.
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which, Chakravorti said, “wants to move even further beyond TV into news and other content.”

“Apple has the resources to go into a bidding war with Musk,” he said. “It is also not likely to face the same antitrust roadblocks. I know Musk has said it is his last offer, but that man changes his mind all the time — mostly to keep the attention on himself and his Twitter feed.”

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