Billionaire Elon Musk has reportedly completed a $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter, capping off a tumultuous transition period for the influential social media company.
The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported on Thursday evening that Musk’s takeover had begun. He also fired key executives such as Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust, and safety, The Post reported. CNBC and Insiders also reported that Musk is now in charge of Twitter.
Twitter, Agrawal, Segal and Gadde didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk appeared to herald his new ownership situation late Thursday with a characteristically brief tweet saying, “the bird is freed.”
By closing the deal, Musk avoided what could have been a messy public trial between him and Twitter. The social media company and Musk were initially scheduled to go head to head in a five-day trial on Oct. 17. A Delaware judge delayed the trial and gave Twitter and Musk until Friday to close the deal.
Twitter sued Musk in July after the Tesla and SpaceX leader said he wanted to back away from purchasing the company for $54.20 per share. Musk alleged that Twitter misrepresented information about the number of fake and spam accounts on its platform. Twitter, on the other hand, accused Musk of trying to end the deal because his personal wealth had fallen and the acquisition became more expensive for him.
Musk’s plan to acquire Twitter and take the publicly-traded company private has been filled with a lot of chaotic twists. In an unexpected move, Musk’s lawyers told Twitter on Oct. 3 that he intended to buy the company at the original offer price and end the legal battle.
Musk, an avid user of the service but also one of its loudest critics, decided to buy Twitter because he thinks the platform is “failing to adhere to free speech principles.” The guarantee of free speech in the US Constitution’s First Amendment applies to the government censoring speech but not to companies such as Twitter, which have their own rules about what isn’t allowed on their sites.
The billionaire has suggested several changes to Twitter, including making the service’s algorithms open source and fighting spam and fake accounts. But he’s also said he plans to reverse former US President Donald Trump’s permanent ban from the platform. Twitter and other platforms booted the politician from their services because of concerns his remarks would incite more violence following the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots. Advocacy groups and Twitter’s employees have also raised concerns that content moderation would be more lax under Musk’s leadership, allowing hate speech and harassment to spread on the platform.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted he thought there’s a danger that social media will “splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers” and he doesn’t want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences!”
Musk visited Twitter’s headquarters this week and told employees he doesn’t plan to cut 75% of the staff when he takes over the company, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. On Wednesday, Musk shared a video of himself visiting Twitter headquarters.
“Entering Twitter HQ — let that sink in!,” he tweeted.