Elon Musk has taken control of Twitter and ousted the CEO, chief financial officer and the company’s top lawyer, two people familiar with the deal said Thursday night.
The people wouldn’t say if all the paperwork for the deal, originally valued at Sh5.3 trillion, had been signed or if the deal has closed. But they said Musk is in charge of the social media platform and has fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and Chief Legal Counsel Vijaya Gadde. Neither person wanted to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the deal.
A few hours later, Musk tweeted, “the bird has been freed,” a reference to Twitter’s logo.
The departures came just hours before a deadline set by a Delaware judge to finalize the deal on Friday. She threatened to schedule a trial if no agreement was reached.
Although they came quickly, the major personnel moves had been widely expected and almost certainly are the first of many major changes the mercurial Tesla CEO will make.
Musk privately clashed with Agrawal in April, immediately before deciding to make a bid for the company, according to text messages later revealed in court filings.
About the same time, he used Twitter to criticize Gadde, the company’s top lawyer. His tweets were followed by a wave of harassment of Gadde from other Twitter accounts. For Gadde, an 11-year Twitter employee who also heads public policy and safety, the harassment included racist and misogynistic attacks, in addition to calls for Musk to fire her. On Thursday, after she was fired, the harassing tweets lit up once again.
Musk’s changes will be aimed at increasing Twitter’s subscriber base and revenue.
In his first big move earlier on Thursday, Musk tried to soothe leery Twitter advertisers saying that he is buying the platform to help humanity and doesn’t want it to become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
The message appeared to be aimed at addressing concerns among advertisers — Twitter’s chief source of revenue — that Musk’s plans to promote free speech by cutting back on moderating content will open the floodgates to more online toxicity and drive away users.
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” Musk wrote in an uncharacteristically long message for the Tesla CEO, who typically projects his thoughts in one-line tweets.