In Twitter Meeting, Elon Musk Fields Questions From 8,000 Employees

SAN FRANCISCO – For weeks, Elon Musk has publicly trashed Twitter, even though he is buying the company in a $ 44 billion deal. On Thursday, he finally acted like the owner.

In a morning one-hour question-and-answer session with 8,000 or more Twitter employees – for the first time Mr. Musk has spoken to him since he agreed to buy the social media company in April – the world’s richest man has revealed his plans for the service. In an influential and sometimes tumultuous speech, he touched on a variety of topics, including growth, potential layoffs, anonymity, Chinese applications, the existence of alien life forms, and the global nature of Twitter.

Mr. Musk said at the meeting, which was streamed live to Twitter employees and which was heard by The New York Times.

The 50-year-old added that he hopes the service can help mankind “better understand the nature of the universe, as much as possible.”

The meeting, in which Shri. Musk walked into the hotel room with his cellphone, indicating that he was ready to close the blockbuster acquisition. His intentions have been in doubt in recent weeks when billionaire, who also runs electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, repeatedly raised questions about fake Twitter accounts under the apparent pretext of potentially terminating the deal or renegotiating it.

From April, the famous Mercury Mr. Musk tweeted that the purchase was “on hold” and accused Twitter of “actively resisting and failing” its rights. At another stage, he criticized some officials of the company. He made the provocative remarks as global markets collapsed and shares of Tesla, his main source of wealth, plummeted.

Moves from Mr. Musk, who pays $ 54.20 per share to buy Twitter, left investors, company employees and others speculating on what he could do. Shares of Twitter are now trading at around $ 37. However the company has insisted that the deal is on track and that it is sharing information with Mr. Musk is on the hook for a $ 1 billion breakup fee if it goes away.

Mr. Musk did not directly address on Thursday whether he would close the deal with Twitter, but he did make it clear to employees that he has big ambitions.

During the conversation, which was moderated by Leslie Burland, Twitter’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Musk said he hopes to expand the service to more than a billion users worldwide. That would be about four times the number of current users. He added that he handles Tesla and expects it on Twitter.

Even with such demonstrations, some warned that Mr. Musk may still change his mind about completing the deal for Twitter.

“I guess he’s working on two tracks,” said Ann Lipton, a professor of corporate governance at Tulane Law School. “Maybe he wants to reduce the price or cancel the deal. If the deal goes through, it will need additional investors. “

She added: “Twitter has spoken to employees in public, trying to allay their concerns, reassuring potential investors. But I’m not clear if it’s Plan B or its Plan A.

Twitter declined to comment on the meeting, and Mr. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Musk decided to speak to Twitter staff weeks ago, but the session did not take place. Then last week, the San Francisco-based company began collecting questions for it from employees on its internal slack messaging system. The meeting, which began at 9 a.m. San Francisco time, started a little late, with Twitter’s chief executive Parag Agarwal thanking him. Musk.

Then Mr. Musk began answering questions, including remote work. This month, he sent memos to Tesla and SpaceX workers, saying they expected him to be in office 40 hours a week. Twitter employees have mostly worked remotely in the coronavirus epidemic.

Mr. Musk told Twitter employees that it is open to their work remotely, although developing software is different from showing up every day to make cars. But he said the widespread lack of participation in the office could contribute to the declining “Esprit de Corps” and hoped that more people would be willing to move into the office in the future.

Mr. Musk was doomed to respond directly to whether he would be fired on Twitter, although his response was somewhat ominous.

“Right now, the cost has exceeded the revenue,” he said. “It’s not a great situation.”

In the second stage, he participated in a discussion about whether life in the outside world was possible, although it was unclear where he came from. He also cited the Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok as ambitious, although WeChat is embedded in people’s daily lives in China and TikTok is “not boring.”

An amendment that Mr. Musk said he wants to add payment technology to Twitter. Ideally, users will be able to send money back and forth through the service in the same way that products like Venmo or Square Cash work.

Mr. Musk, a longtime power user of Twitter with more than 98 million followers, has long said he believes the company’s potential has been underestimated. He added that he hopes to revive the service out of sight of the public market by privatizing the company and making significant changes to how Twitter works.

Inside Twitter, some employees had mixed feelings about Mr. Musk. Some have said they are concerned about his Twitter habits and vague politics.

On Thursday, SpaceX employees released a memo stating that they were also concerned about the public behavior of their chief executive – especially how he behaves on Twitter – and that it reflects badly on employees.

“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a source of frequent disruption and embarrassment for us,” read the letter, obtained by the Times and previously reported by The Verge. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX – every tweet Elon sends is a real public statement by the company.”

Others on Twitter said they were concerned that Mr. Musk wants to adopt a lace-fair approach to policing the platform.

On Thursday, he focused on making Twitter as comprehensive a platform as possible, gaining more users, adding that he would not allow criminal acts on the network. He said he does not want people on Twitter to use his real name and has the usefulness of using a nickname to express political views on the service.

Some Twitter employees who have pointed to Mr. Musk’s reputation as a novelty, he said, was uplifted after Thursday’s meeting. Mr. Musk was not hostile and seemed to have a vision for the product, although he was not able to mention it explicitly at the time, they said. Others said he did not address their questions, an employee wrote in an internal slack message, which was seen by the Times, saying, “If you drink every time you answer that question, you will eventually end up in pain.” This. “

Mr. Musk was uncommitted when asked if he planned to take on the role of chief executive on Twitter when he took over the company. He said he is not a traditional CEO and pointed to his title at Tesla, which is Technoking. But he also noted that he had many ideas for how product updates and services should be developed and that he would report them to others in the company.

“I expect them to listen to me on this matter,” Mr. Kasturi said.

Ryan Mack And Lauren Hirsch Contribution Report.

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