How Twitter’s Board Went From Fighting Elon Musk to Accepting Him

Twitter’s board had reached the top of the street.

It was April 24. Ten days earlier, Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, had made an unsolicited bid to purchase Twitter for $54.20 a share. Alarmed by the out-of-the-blue proposal and unsure if the supply was for actual, the social media firm had adopted a “poison tablet,” a defensive maneuver to cease Mr. Musk from accumulating extra of its shares.

However by that Sunday, Twitter was working out of decisions. Mr. Musk had lined up financing for his supply and was needling the corporate together with his tweets. And after hours of discussions and reviewing Twitter’s plans and funds, the questions the 11 board members had been wrestling with — may the corporate be price greater than $54.20 a share? would some other bidder emerge? — had been all main to at least one dissatisfying reply: No.

Lower than 24 hours later, the blockbuster $44 billion deal was introduced.

“What I’ll let you know is that primarily based on the evaluation and the notion of threat, certainty and worth, the board unanimously determined the supply from Elon represented the most effective worth for our shareholders,” Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, informed the corporate’s greater than 7,000 staff on Monday in a name that The New York Occasions listened to.

A central thriller of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is how the corporate’s board went from putting in a poison tablet to agreeing to promote to him in simply 11 days. In most megadeals, the adoption of a poison tablet results in a protracted combat. The tactic is a transparent sign that an organization intends to battle. Negotiations then drag out. Typically patrons stroll away.

However interviews with a dozen individuals near the transaction, who weren’t licensed to talk publicly, present simply how few choices Twitter’s board had.

And whereas there are various kinds of patrons that deal advisers are ready to fend off — hostile ones, aggressive ones, those that lowball after which are prepared to barter — Twitter confronted an acquirer in Mr. Musk who was not in any deal playbook. In essence, he was an “unknown amount” acquirer, one who wouldn’t budge on value and was ready to publicly trash the corporate and wield his appreciable fortune to get an settlement accomplished with restricted diligence.

“Regular patrons would possibly truly say, ‘Effectively, you realize, we truly need to speak to the oldsters inside and see how is the enterprise going and get extra information than is accessible to the general public,’” mentioned Edward Rock, a professor of company governance on the New York College College of Regulation. “What was fascinating,” he mentioned, is that the Twitter board “reached a deal in a brief time frame — and such an unconditional deal.” He known as the deal’s velocity “uncommon.”

Twitter declined to touch upon its board discussions. Mr. Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The groundwork for a deal was laid in January, when Mr. Musk started shopping for Twitter inventory, ultimately increase a greater than 9 % stake within the firm. When he made his holdings recognized in a securities submitting in early April, Twitter supplied him a board seat. Mr. Musk briefly agreed to the concept earlier than altering his thoughts.

As a substitute, on the night of April 13, Mr. Musk despatched a textual content message to Mr. Taylor, who has been Twitter’s chairman since 2016. (Mr. Taylor can be a co-chief government of the software program firm Salesforce.)

“I’m going to ship you a suggestion letter tonight, it is going to be public within the morning,” Mr. Musk wrote to Mr. Taylor. The change was included in a securities submitting.

The following morning, a bare-bones supply letter arrived from Mr. Musk. It declared his intention to purchase Twitter for $54.20 a share, however it had few particulars about his plans for the corporate or the financing.

Mr. Musk employed the funding financial institution Morgan Stanley, tapping the companies of two bankers, Anthony Armstrong and Michael Grimes. Mr. Grimes, who heads Morgan Stanley’s expertise banking observe, led the 2012 public inventory providing of Fb and different tech firms, whereas Mr. Armstrong was a longtime tech banker who had just lately been promoted to firm vice chairman.

Twitter’s board didn’t fairly know how one can deal with Mr. Musk’s bid, the individuals with information of the discussions mentioned. Mr. Musk didn’t have a monitor file of shopping for firms and had not adopted via on some offers, together with one in 2018 when he tweeted that he would take his carmaker, Tesla, personal however then didn’t accomplish that.

A day after Mr. Musk’s bid grew to become public, Twitter’s board voted unanimously to sluggish him down by authorizing the poison tablet. To defend itself, Twitter turned to Goldman Sachs, its longtime banker, and JPMorgan Chase. For authorized recommendation, it added the regulation agency Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to complement its longtime regulation agency, Wilson Sonsini.

JPMorgan declined to remark. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Simpson Thacher didn’t instantly have feedback.

Mr. Musk was undeterred. His bankers started attempting to corral tens of billions of {dollars} in financing for a Twitter deal. His advisers introduced potential lenders with a number of pages vaguely outlining Mr. Musk’s objectives. The billionaire additionally talked instantly with banks, an individual with information of the calls mentioned.

That helped persuade Citigroup, Financial institution of America, BNP Paribas and different banks to place their cash in. Regardless of a scarcity of particulars about Mr. Musk’s plans, lenders had been reassured partially by the entrepreneur’s previous successes and wealth, the particular person mentioned.

Mr. Musk additionally campaigned on Twitter for a deal. He hinted that he would take his proposal on to shareholders in a so-called tender supply if the corporate’s board didn’t settle for his bid. On April 16, he tweeted, “Love me tender.” Three days later, he tweeted “____ is the Evening,” a reference to the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, “Tender Is the Evening.”

Twitter’s board fractured. On April 16, Jack Dorsey, a Twitter founder who stepped down as chief government in November and is a board member, tweeted that the board had been the “constant dysfunction of the corporate.” When requested by a Twitter consumer whether or not he was allowed to say that, Mr. Dorsey responded, “no.”

Mr. Dorsey’s criticism rankled different board members and Twitter executives, mentioned two individuals who labored on the deal. Mr. Taylor requested Mr. Dorsey to cease tweeting negatively, one particular person mentioned. Mr. Dorsey continued posting references to Twitter’s board.

A spokesman for Mr. Dorsey declined to remark. A spokeswoman for Mr. Taylor declined to remark.

On April 21, Mr. Musk lined up $46.5 billion in financing. He had obtained commitments from Morgan Stanley and different lenders for $13 billion in debt financing, whereas one other group of banks promised $12.5 billion in loans in opposition to his inventory in Tesla. Mr. Musk added that he would use one other $21 billion in money to purchase the remainder of Twitter’s fairness.

The financing compelled Twitter’s board to take Mr. Musk significantly. No different gives for the corporate had emerged, two individuals aware of the deliberations mentioned.

At Twitter, Mr. Taylor weighed worker uncertainty and the societal implications of a deal versus the board’s fiduciary responsibility, individuals with information of the state of affairs mentioned. That meant making a choice primarily based on whether or not Twitter may moderately obtain a price higher than what Mr. Musk had put ahead.

Mr. Taylor and different board members debated whether or not Twitter’s consumer and income development prospects had been sensible. The San Francisco firm, which had not turned a revenue for eight of the final 10 years, had set aggressive enterprise targets.

Twitter had additionally initially benefited from the pandemic, attracting a surge of latest customers and sending its inventory to greater than $77 in February 2021. However its promoting enterprise lagged these of rivals, and because the pandemic enhance wore off, its shares fell under $40.

Nonetheless, some board members had been cautious about having a saviorlike determine resembling Mr. Musk swoop in, particularly since Twitter had already relied upon such figures — together with Mr. Dorsey — to proper the ship, two individuals mentioned.

Mr. Musk started making ready to begin a young supply for Twitter, mentioned one particular person near the discussions. He had a possible ally on Twitter’s board in Egon Durban, a co-chief government of the personal fairness agency Silver Lake, who had labored with Mr. Musk on his failed 2018 effort to take Tesla personal. However Mr. Durban made clear to the board that Silver Lake was not teaming up with Mr. Musk to offer financing for a takeover, two individuals mentioned.

Via a spokesman, Mr. Durban declined to remark.

Final Saturday, Mr. Musk spoke with Mr. Taylor and threatened to take his supply on to Twitter’s shareholders, with out explicitly saying he would begin a hostile bid, an individual with information of the decision mentioned.

On Sunday, Twitter’s board concluded that it needed to make a cope with Mr. Musk. The corporate couldn’t hit $54.20 a share by itself, board members agreed, and no white knight was coming.

Mr. Taylor informed Mr. Musk that Twitter would proceed with a sale, an individual with information of the decision mentioned. Even so, Mr. Musk despatched a letter to Mr. Taylor threatening a hostile bid.

Twitter’s advisers homed in on protections for the deal, like a breakup payment if Mr. Musk walked away and a six-month timeline to closing the deal, which could possibly be significantly vital if expertise shares proceed to fall. Mr. Musk’s advisers shored up financing particulars, with the billionaire personally signing off on every level, an individual aware of the negotiations mentioned.

After the settlement was introduced on Monday afternoon, Mr. Musk took a victory lap.

“Yesss!!!” he tweeted, posting emojis of rockets, stars and hearts.

Anupreeta Das, Maureen Farrell and Kate Conger contributed reporting.

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