Twitter vs Elon Musk: deal and social media lawsuit explained - will he be forced to buy Twitter?

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Musk has launched a renewal bid for the company, but Twitter feels he should buy on his original terms

A judge has postponed a trial between Twitter and Elon Musk, giving the Tesla CEO more time to finalise his 44 billion dollar (£39 billion) deal to buy the firm after months of battling to get out of it.

Musk had requested a stay of proceedings in the upcoming Delaware court hearing, where the Tesla billionaire was expected to fare poorly against Twitter's lawsuit forcing him to finish his April merger agreement.

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Musk resurrected his acquisition bid on Monday (10 October), after originally pulling out of the deal over the summer, but said he needed more time to secure the funds.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2020 (Photo: Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2020 (Photo: Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2020 (Photo: Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

What is going on with Musk’s bid to buy Twitter?

In April, just days after it was announced Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk had bought a 9% stake in Twitter, the billionaire offered to outright purchase the social media platform.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, signed an agreement to acquire Twitter for $54.20 (£42.20) per share, or around $44 billion (£34.5 billion).

But Musk backed out of the deal over the summer accusing Twitter of refusing to give him information about “spam bot” accounts on the service.

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An unhappy Twitter countered by serving a lawsuit against Musk - should he lose that case, he would be forced to go through with his original deal whether he wants to or not.

He has now told the social media platform he is ready to buy the company once again, but claims the San Francisco-based firm is refusing to accept his renewed bid.

Twitter reiterated in a statement that it was ready to close the deal on the share price agreed upon in April: “We look forward to closing the transaction at 54.20 dollars by October 28th,” referring to the price Musk originally offered for each Twitter share.

Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro said in a statement on that “Twitter offered Mr Musk billions off the transaction price”, but Musk “refused because Twitter attempted to put certain self-serving conditions on the deal”.

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He did not elaborate on what those conditions were, and Twitter has not described the talks beyond what its lawyers have said in court.

(Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images)(Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Why does Musk want to buy Twitter?

In April, alongside the announcement that Musk had bought a 9% stake in Twitter, it was also revealed he would join the board of directors.

But just days later, Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal confirmed that Musk had changed his mind. Musk has said he believes changes are needed in order to help the site thrive and better support free speech.

In a statament released following the confirmtion of his accepted bid, Musk said: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

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“Twitter has tremendous potential - I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

Who previously owned Twitter?

There are many stockholders in Twitter Inc., therefore no single person owns the entire corporation.

It's a 'public' firm because its shares are accessible for everyone to buy on the stock exchange, whereas it would be a 'private' company if only a few people or groups owned it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the group with the largest stake is Vanguard Group, an American investment firm that is one of the world's largest.

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Vanguard Group is thought to own 82.4 million shares of the corporation, or 10.3% of the company, as of 15 April.

Musk is the company's second-largest stakeholder. He owns 9.2% of Twitter Inc. with his 73.5 million shares.

The remaining shares are held by a variety of financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley and BlackRock Inc.

Jack Dorsey, the original co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, presently owns 2.25% of the company.

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What will Elon Musk’s Twitter look like?

Musk has stated that he believes the site needs to alter in order to grow and better encourage free speech.

Musk is well known for his belief in absolute free speech and has suggested he does not think Twitter is living up to its principles on the issue.

But a change of Twitter policy instigated by Musk to loosen rules around speech on the site could create more problems for the company in an age of increasingly polarised online discourse.

In his statement, he said: “I [also] want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

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One expert said that Musk’s own history of tweeting could hamper the delicate balancing act of content moderation Twitter is currently engaged in.

“Sowing the seeds of championing ‘free speech’ is one thing, but let’s not forget Elon’s view of simply voicing opinion has been seen as reckless by regulators in the past,” Dan Lane, senior analyst at investment and stock trading app Freetrade, said.

Musk has previously run into problems with US regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over his own tweets, having been accused of breaching trading rules when tweeting about his business interests.

He has also been accused of tweeting misinformation about Covid-19 after posting in March 2020 that children were “essentially immune” to the disease.

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Musk’s attitude to free speech is shared by the likes of Donald Trump and a number of other right-wing political figures who have had their accounts suspended for violating Twitter content rules but claim they have been the victims of censorship.

Some believe a Musk takeover could mean a return to the platform for Trump and others, but reinstating those users would be a highly controversial move and could bring further scrutiny to the company and its approach to moderation.

Infamously, British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth sued the Tesla co-founder after he called him “pedo guy” and “sus” (suspicious) on Twitter in a spat following the July 2018 Thai cave rescue.

Unsworth lost the case after Musk’s lawyers argued it was no more than a playground insult and did not represent an allegation of paedophilia, to which a jury agreed.

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