How Elon Musk bought Twitter

After months of legal drama, Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. And, like a lot of what Musk does, his path to owning his favorite social network wasn’t exactly straightforward.

Video transcript

KARISSA BELL: After months of legal drama, Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. And like a lot of what Musk does, his path to owning his favorite social network wasn't exactly straightforward. It's no secret Musk is one of Twitter's most prolific users. He has more than 100 million followers and tweets almost constantly. He tweets about his companies, SpaceX and Tesla, but also memes and 420 jokes. But it wasn't until recently, we learned Musk wanted to exert an even bigger influence on the platform.

This spring, he spent nearly $3 billion quietly amassing a 9.2% stake in the company. Almost overnight, he was Twitter's largest shareholder. Inside Twitter, the investment immediately prompted concerns he was gearing up for a hostile takeover. The company decided to offer him a seat on its board. And for a few days, it seemed like he would join. But the day his appointment was supposed to become official, Twitter said Musk had declined to join after all. Three days later, Musk changed his mind again. He didn't just want a piece of Twitter. He wanted the whole company and offered to buy it for $54.20 a share.

In public, Musk was already talking about his plans for the company. He wanted to loosen its moderation rules and open source its recommendation algorithms. He pledged to do away with permanent bans except for bots and scammers, which he wanted to purge once and for all. Behind the scenes, there was more going on. We now know from Musk's text messages that Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey had been quietly pushing to get Musk involved for years. Dorsey, who has said Twitter shouldn't be a company at all, thought Musk could fix what he couldn't. The two exchanged ideas for weeks before Musk made his offer.

Meanwhile, Musk got more and more frustrated with Twitter's board and its CEO, Parag Agrawal. When Agrawal told Musk his tweets questioning if Twitter was dying weren't helpful, Musk grew angry and said talking to him was a waste of time. Unsurprisingly, Twitter's leadership wasn't excited about Musk's offer at first. In fact, the company's board seemed like they might try to fight the takeover. But then Musk secured billions of dollars in financing from banks and investor friends. And $44 billion was just too good to turn down. 11 days later, Twitter's board accepted the offer. Twitter would be a private company, and Musk would be in control, the company told employees.

Then Musk started tweeting about bots. Bots and fake accounts have long been a major annoyance for Musk. Bots constantly jammed up his replies. Crypto scammers impersonated him. One even hacked his account. Cleaning out Twitter's bots was one of his main goals for buying the company, he said. But as their lawyers worked to close the deal, Musk began demanding Twitter provide more details about just how many bots were on the platform. Twitter has said for years that bots make up less than 5% of all users. Musk, who sees far more bots than most, wasn't convinced. He said the deal was now temporarily on hold. He demanded more detailed data from Twitter about bots. Twitter complied, and Agrawal even tried to publicly explain how it deals with spam and fake accounts.

But Musk was unmoved. He responded to Agrawal's tweets with a poop emoji. It had now been nearly three months since Twitter accepted Musk's offer, and Musk was now publicly accusing the company of lying. He wanted out. But Twitter now needed Musk. The company's stock was tanking, and it was worth far less than the $44 billion Musk had agreed to pay. Twitter sued. The lawsuit pitted Twitter against Musk in Delaware's Chancery Court. A five-day trial was scheduled for October. Twitter, whose shareholders had approved the buyout, wanted to force Musk to honor his agreement. Musk, who had agreed to the deal without due diligence, said Twitter had misled him.

Then, days before the trial was scheduled to start and not long after embarrassing text messages were published in court documents, Musk agreed. He would buy the company after all. Twitter cautiously agreed. Ultimately, Twitter and Musk finalized the deal one day ahead of a court-ordered deadline. Twitter was once again a private company, and Musk was now calling the shots. But just because the deal has closed doesn't mean the drama is over. One of his first moves was to fire several of Twitter's top executives, including Agrawal and the company's top policymaker. He's reportedly planning much deeper cuts as well and could lay off as much as 50% of all staff.

Musk also has big plans to change the platform itself. He wants to form a moderation council to weigh in on content policies. And he's likely to reverse many previous suspensions, including Donald Trump's. At the same time, he's told advertisers that he doesn't want Twitter to turn into a free-for-all hellscape and that he wants to improve its ads. He also wants to revamp Twitter's subscription features and has voted charging for verification and charging to embed tweets. One of his advisors has suggested allowing companies to pay to DM users. He's even considering bringing back Vine, the beloved shortform video app Twitter killed in 2016. And while we don't yet know how many of these ideas may actually happen, it's clear Musk intends to use his experience as Twitter's most famous user to reshape the platform. As always, hit subscribe for more news from Engadget.