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

SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, Elon Musk has publicly trashed Twitter, although he’s shopping for the corporate in a $44 billion deal. On Thursday, he lastly acted like an proprietor.

In an hourlong question-and-answer session within the morning with Twitter’s 8,000 or so staff — the primary time Mr. Musk has spoken with them since he agreed to purchase the social media firm in April — the world’s richest man opened up about his plans for the service. In an effusive and at occasions rambling handle, he touched on matters as assorted as development, potential layoffs, anonymity, Chinese language apps, the existence of alien life-forms and even the cosmic nature of Twitter.

“I need Twitter to contribute to a greater, long-lasting civilization the place we higher perceive the character of actuality,” Mr. Musk mentioned within the assembly, which was livestreamed to Twitter staff and which The New York Instances listened to.

The 50-year-old added that he hoped the service may assist humankind “higher perceive the character of the universe, as a lot as it’s attainable to grasp.”

The assembly, which Mr. Musk participated in from his cellphone in what seemed to be a resort room, steered that he was set on closing the blockbuster acquisition. His intentions had been unsure in latest weeks when the billionaire, who additionally runs the electrical carmaker Tesla and the rocket firm SpaceX, repeatedly raised questions on Twitter’s faux accounts in an obvious pretext for probably ending or renegotiating the deal.

Since April, the famously mercurial Mr. Musk has tweeted that the acquisition was “on maintain” and accused Twitter of “actively resisting and thwarting” his rights. At one other level, he had criticized among the firm’s executives. He made his inflammatory feedback as international markets tumbled and shares of Tesla, that are his primary supply of wealth, plummeted.

The antics from Mr. Musk, who’s paying $54.20 a share to purchase Twitter, had left buyers, the corporate’s staff and others guessing as to what he may do. Twitter’s inventory is now buying and selling round $37. But the corporate has insisted that the deal stays on observe and that it has been sharing data with Mr. Musk, who’s on the hook for a breakup charge of $1 billion if he walks away.

Mr. Musk didn’t immediately handle on Thursday whether or not he would shut the take care of Twitter, however he made it clear to staff that he had grand ambitions.

Throughout the dialog, which was moderated by Twitter’s chief advertising officer, Leslie Berland, Mr. Musk mentioned he hoped to broaden the service to multiple billion customers the world over. That might be almost 4 occasions the variety of present customers. He added that he was hands-on at Tesla and anticipated to be so at Twitter.

Even with such a efficiency, some cautioned that Mr. Musk may nonetheless change his thoughts about finishing the deal for Twitter.

“I assume he’s working on two tracks,” mentioned Ann Lipton, a professor of company governance at Tulane Regulation College. “Perhaps he needs to decrease the value and even cancel the deal. If the deal goes by way of, he needs further buyers.”

She added: “Publicly speaking to Twitter staff, making an attempt to assuage their issues, possibly provides reassurances to potential buyers. However I’m not clear whether or not that’s his Plan B or his Plan A.”

Twitter declined to touch upon the assembly, and Mr. Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Mr. Musk had been scheduled to talk to Twitter’s staff weeks in the past, however the session didn’t happen. Then over the previous week, the San Francisco-based firm started accumulating questions for him from staff on its inside Slack messaging system. The assembly, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. San Francisco time, started a couple of minutes late, with Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief govt, thanking Mr. Musk.

Then Mr. Musk began answering questions, together with about distant work. This month, he despatched memos to employees at Tesla and SpaceX saying he anticipated them to be within the workplace for 40 hours per week. Twitter’s staff have largely labored remotely within the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Musk instructed Twitter staff that he was open to their working remotely, provided that creating software program is totally different from displaying up every day to construct automobiles. However he mentioned a broad lack of in-office participation may contribute to a dwindling “esprit de corps” and hoped that individuals can be keen to enter the workplace extra sooner or later.

Mr. Musk dodged immediately answering whether or not there can be layoffs at Twitter, although his reply was considerably ominous.

“Proper now, prices exceed income,” he mentioned. “That’s not an important state of affairs.”

At one other level, he digressed right into a dialogue about whether or not extraterrestrial life was attainable, although it was unclear the place he netted out. He additionally introduced up the Chinese language apps WeChat and TikTok as aspirational, provided that WeChat is so embedded in individuals’s every day lives in China and TikTok is “not boring.”

One enchancment that Mr. Musk mentioned he needed to make was including funds expertise to Twitter. Ideally, customers would be capable of ship cash forwards and backwards by way of the service, just like how merchandise like Venmo or Sq. Money function.

Mr. Musk, a longtime energy person of Twitter with greater than 98 million followers, has lengthy mentioned he believes the corporate’s potential is underutilized. He has added that he hopes to rejuvenate the service exterior the attention of the general public markets by taking the corporate personal and making vital adjustments to how Twitter operates.

Inside Twitter, some staff have had combined emotions about Mr. Musk. Some have mentioned they’re involved by his Twitter habits and murky politics.

On Thursday, staff at SpaceX circulated a memo saying that they have been additionally involved about their chief govt’s public conduct — significantly how he acted on Twitter — and that it mirrored poorly on staff.

“Elon’s conduct within the public sphere is a frequent supply of distraction and embarrassment for us,” learn the letter, which was obtained by The Instances and reported earlier by The Verge. “As our C.E.O. and most distinguished spokesperson, Elon is seen because the face of SpaceX — each tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public assertion by the corporate.”

Others at Twitter have mentioned they have been nervous by how Mr. Musk needs to take a laissez-faire strategy to policing the platform.

On Thursday, he emphasised that he needed to make Twitter as inclusive a platform as attainable, principally by gaining extra customers, including that he wouldn’t enable felony acts to be carried out on the community. He mentioned that he additionally didn’t need to make individuals use their actual names on Twitter and that there was utility in utilizing pseudonyms to specific political beliefs on the service.

Some Twitter staff, who’ve pointed to Mr. Musk’s popularity as an innovator, mentioned they felt heartened after Thursday’s assembly. Mr. Musk was not hostile and appeared to have a imaginative and prescient for the product, regardless of not having the ability to enunciate it clearly at occasions, they mentioned. Others mentioned he had not addressed their questions, with one worker writing in an inside Slack message, which was seen by The Instances, that “when you took a drink every time he answered a query, you’d be painfully sober on the finish of this.”

Mr. Musk was noncommittal when requested if he deliberate to imagine the chief govt function at Twitter when he took over the corporate. He mentioned he wasn’t a conventional C.E.O. and pointed to his title at Tesla, which is Technoking. However he additionally famous that he had many concepts for product updates and the way the service ought to evolve, and that he would make these recognized to others inside the firm.

“I do anticipate that they may hearken to me on this regard,” Mr. Musk mentioned.

Ryan Mac and Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.